Move over Jacksonville Jaguars, the Tampa Bay Rays are the latest Floridian sports franchise to build big. The baseball team announced last week that it would be pursuing plans for an ambitious, $892 million ballpark in Tampa designed by Populous, but details of how the team would pay for the project are still scarce. Tropicana Field, the Rays’ current home in neighboring St. Petersburg, is the MLB’s smallest and the Rays frequently measure dead last in average home field attendance rates. The Rays have conceded a new stadium isn’t technically necessary, but they want to use the new scheme to drum up attendance and enthusiasm. The stadium has been proposed for downtown Tampa’s nationally landmarked Ybor City district, about 20 miles from Tropicana Field. Despite the price tag, the new ballpark would remain the smallest in the league and only seat approximately 30,000, about the same as the Rays’ current home. Capacity isn’t the potential ball park’s draw; that lies in the location and more exciting design. The proposed ballpark’s most distinctive features are the dramatic tilt and swoop of the roofline and the non-retractable glass dome that would enclose the field, reminiscent of Buckminster Fuller’s Dodger Dome. The structural cross-bracing on the underside of the translucent dome would resemble a coffered ceiling when seen from below. Clear glass panels would rise closer to the outfield and meet the lip of the dome as it wrapped around the building. A massive sunshade has been proposed for the backside of the roof, where most of the seating would be. The glass ceiling alone is projected to cost around 30 percent of the project’s nearly $900 million budget. The Rays would also create a multi-level retail podium around the ballpark’s base, with the field itself sitting in the middle and anchoring the development. The buildings at ground level would feature sliding glass walls capable of retracting during nicer weather. The principal owner of the Rays, Stuart Sternberg, explained to the Chicago Tribune that the move was part of the team’s attempt at leaving a legacy in Tampa, which is why the new plan bucks what might be expected of a stadium proposal. The team has admitted that the renderings are, in part, designed to drum up public and private investment in the new stadium. The team will reportedly contribute anywhere from $150 to $400 million to the project depending on whether they can secure a naming rights purchase, but taxpayers could ultimately be responsible for hundreds of millions of dollars in bond debt depending on how a deal shapes up. The Rays are aiming to open the field in time for the 2023 season.
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A massive, 1.1-million-square-foot development adjacent to Fenway Park in Boston is finally set to rise, following 15 years of delays, setbacks, and logistical issues. The first phase of Fenway Center will bring two residential buildings with 312 units, 37,000 square feet of ground floor retail and 200 underground parking spots to what is currently a parking lot, at a price tag of $240 million. Fenway Center has been plagued by false starts for years (AN last wrote that it might break ground in 2013), but construction on the mixed-use development is now supposed to begin in the next two weeks and wrap up by 2020. One of the most difficult hurdles that the project has had to clear, other than financing, is that phase one would have originally placed the residential towers over the Massachusetts Turnpike, with phase two building on the parking lot. Spanning a deck over the turnpike made the project prohibitively expensive and complicated, and as the site is state-owned, Massachusetts’s officials required developer John Rosenthal to have both the funding and deck plans in place before they would sign a lease. These problems seem to have been resolved by Rosenthal rearranging the project’s timeline, as Rosenthal hopes the new towers will build anticipation, and funding, for decking over the turnpike. “We’re going to create a neighborhood here where today there are parking lots and windswept bridges,” Rosenthal told The Boston Globe. “That will attract the debt and equity for Phase 2.” With the residential towers going up on the nearby lot instead, phase two will now see an office tower and garages being built over the turnpike. With a 99-year lease in place between Rosenthal and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, construction on the project is poised to begin immediately. The scheme will build off of an earlier master plan by New York-based Carlos Zapata Studio, and Chelsea, Massachusetts-based The Architectural Team (TAT) will be designing the buildings, as well as the site’s elevated pedestrian walkways and new green spaces. TAT has also promised that Fenway Center will feature one of the largest private solar power plants in the state, and the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority’s first net-zero-energy train station. Repurposing the unused land around sports venues has become increasingly popular, as the ballpark-adjacent Fenway Center will join the likes of Denver's new stadium district and the office complexes bordering Wrigley Field. Phase one of Fenway Center is expected to finish construction by 2020, and the developers are required to finalize their lease with the MassDOT for the second phase by the same year.
After news broke last month that the Oakland A’s had finally settled on a site for their new ballpark at Oakland’s Peralta Community College District, their plans have been derailed after the school decided to cancel negotiations with the team. With plans for the stadium, previously to have been designed by Sasaki, Snøhetta, Studio T-Square, and HOK, now potentially derailed, it also remains to be seen if the A’s will remain in Oakland. Sasaki, Snøhetta, and Oakland-based Studio T-Square would have led master planning and urban design efforts, alongside building out a community engagement process. HOK and Snøhetta were to collaborate on the design of the new ballpark, and to make sure that it wouldn’t remain an “insular” experience. So-called “stadium districts” are becoming fairly common around the country, as team owners and designers have been seeking to jumpstart investment around areas that already experience a high amount of foot traffic. Though no renderings had been released, construction was expected to have finished by 2023. While the Peralta Community College site was chosen after a years-long search by the A’s, nothing had been finalized by their decision to put the new stadium there. Besides needing to finalize land negotiations with Peralta, the team had been facing ardent pushback from Chinatown locals worried about gentrification, from the Audubon society over the impact that development would have on bird migration patterns at the nearby Lake Merritt, and from politicians raising other concerns from their constituents. Compounding the problems the A’s were facing, much of the 15-acre site has been contaminated with an unknown amount of gasoline and other toxic substances and would have needed costly remediation. Although business leaders in Oakland had rallied in support of the investments the new stadium would generate, Peralta’s board of trustees chose to discontinue conversations with the A’s on Tuesday. “We are shocked by Peralta’s decision to not move forward,” the A’s said in a statement released this morning. “All we wanted to do was enter into a conversation about how to make this work for all of Oakland, Laney, and the Peralta Community College District. We are disappointed that we will not have that opportunity.” The A’s had already pledged to pay for development out of their own pockets, but this promise was dependent on revenue projections from a new ballpark, not the redevelopment of their existing Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. As the only remaining professional sports team in Oakland, the pressure was on for the A’s to choose a site in the city, but with their top pick off the table, the Athletics could be enticed to leave. As A’s President Dave Kaval recently told the San Francisco Chronicle, there was no “plan B” if Peralta didn’t work out.
The Oakland Athletics have finally settled on a site for their new ballpark, and have hired Sasaki, Snøhetta, Studio T-Square, and HOK to not only design the stadium, but to also better integrate it into the surrounding urban fabric. Ending years of contentious debate over where to build, the A’s have chosen the lakeside Peralta Community College District in downtown Oakland, California. Sasaki, Snøhetta, and Oakland-based Studio T-Square will lead master planning, urban design efforts, and build a community engagement process. HOK and Snøhetta will collaborate on the design of the new ballpark and how it interacts with the master plan. No images have been released as of yet, but the team and design firms involved are hoping that the new stadium will catalyze investment along Lake Merritt without alienating the community. “Our goal is to create the best ballpark experience for our fans, players, and community. It is critical for our ballpark to truly integrate into the fabric of Oakland,” said Oakland A’s President Dave Kaval, in a press release. Craig Dykers, founding partner at Snøhetta, also stressed that the project wouldn’t be an insular experience. “With its new home closer to downtown Oakland, the project will re-invigorate the relationship between the A’s and the city as a new kind of ballpark that acts as a center for sport, wellness and culture,” he said. Even with the promised outreach, community groups have been opposed to the plan owing to fears of displacement, gentrification, and potential environmental damage to the sensitive estuaries nearby. Another potential wrench in the plan is the presence of hazardous materials in the soil that would need to be remediated. An unknown amount of gasoline and other toxic substances have seeped into the ground and water at the site over the years, and no one knows how much the clean up will cost. Still, the new stadium will be a step up for the Athletics, set to become the only major league sports team in Oakland after the Raiders leave in 2019. The A's current Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum is a 51-year-old concrete eyesore that the team currently shares with the Raiders, and that regularly floods with sewage when the plumbing backs up. The team claims that the new stadium will be privately funded and put up to $3.05 billion into the local economy, and that construction should finish in 2023.
The Pawtucket Red Sox, or the PawSox, as fans refer to them, unveiled plans for “The Ballpark at Slater Mill,” an $83 million, 9,000- to 10,000-seat venue that would not only replace the team’s current home, 75-year-old McCoy Stadium, but also serve as a year-round attraction for the town and an anchor for a recreation and tourism district next to historic Slater Mill, a cotton mill converted to a museum. The Pawtucket Red Sox are a minor league baseball team affiliated with the Boston Red Sox. With its proposal, the PawSox are following the lead of the Durham Bulls in North Carolina, the 51s in Las Vegas, and other teams demonstrating that minor league ballparks can be catalysts for economic growth and urban revitalization by anchoring larger commercial districts and sparking additional development nearby. D’Agostino Izzo Quirk Architects (DAIQ) of Somerville, Massachusetts prepared a conceptual design for the ballpark, which would mark a new gateway to Rhode Island for drivers traveling on I-95. The design would enable it to accommodate not only the ball club’s games but community events such as concerts, farmers’ markets, college football and ice skating. “It will be more than a ballpark,” said PawSox Chairman Larry Lucchino, in a statement about the proposed design. “It will be a city park, open year-round." He added, "From a baseball standpoint, it would have Fenway Park’s playing dimensions, high tech innovations, and the PawSox’ tradition of affordable pricing. And importantly, it will take the franchise from financial uncertainty to stable financial condition.” Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien said, “Pawtucket has a unique opportunity to use the drawing power of a ballpark to serve as a catalyst in the redevelopment of our city. Pawtucket…needs this special catalyst.” With a population of 71,427, Pawtucket has been called the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution. It’s also the birthplace of Raymond Hood, architect of the Chicago Tribune tower, who was Ayn Rand’s inspiration for Peter Keating, Howard Roark’s nemesis in The Fountainhead. Slater Mill is a local landmark and symbol of the town’s industrial past. Built in 1793, it was the first successful cotton weaving mill in colonial America. The mill closed in the early 1920s and was restored in 1925 as one of America’s first industrial museums. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1966, it’s now part of a three-building campus and open for guided tours. The Ballpark at Slater Mill is not a done deal. The proposal is one of several options the team is considering because its lease for McCoy Stadium expires in 2020. The team needs funding support from the state legislature before it can move ahead and is awaiting action from state legislators. Working with Kansas City-based Pendulum, the PawSox have studied plans for upgrading McCoy Stadium, which opened in 1942 and is farther from the heart of town. According to one estimate, it needs $68 million worth of improvements. The PawSox say they don’t view that as a viable option because of the cost and the lack of ability to spur other investment. Another option is to leave Pawtucket and build elsewhere. Other towns have shown interest, including Worcester and Springfield, Massachusetts. The Slater Mill proposal is the team’s preferred choice, according to PawSox representatives. The team also announced this summer that it is working with Janet Marie Smith, a nationally recognized urban designer and planner and current senior vice president of planning and development with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Smith, who will remain in her position with the Dodgers while assisting the PawSox, said she has been asked to evaluate the team’s options for new construction and expects to have recommendations later this year.
Chicago’s Wrigley Field turns 100 years old this year. To many neighbors and architectural historians, however, the ballpark’s centennial celebrations are an afterthought to the real action: the years-long debate over how to update the landmark park without corrupting its beloved 1914 character. At a community meeting Monday, Lakeview residents expressed concern over proposals including five new outfield signs and two video scoreboards. The plan goes to the Landmarks Commission on Thursday, but local Alderman Tom Tunney said he will not support it. In 2013 Chicago’s Landmarks Commission laid out guidelines for Wrigley upgrades, which its owners and operators maintain are necessary to help pay off structural renovations and modernize the country’s second-oldest ballpark. But opposition has been strong from wary neighbors and the owners of adjacent rooftops, who say new signage will kill their business renting out their ersatz outfield seats. The plan debuted this week differs from the blueprint approved by Landmarks last year. Repeated delays and neighborhood opposition have scuttled plans from owner Tom Ricketts to add a Starwood hotel, 40,000-square-foot gym and open-air plaza in the areas surrounding Wrigley Field. Residents of Wrigleyville now face a dilemma: call Ricketts’ bluff over moving the team to suburban Rosemont, risking the loss of an economic engine, or cave on design guidelines they say are necessary to preserve the character and livelihood of their prosperous North Side community. Unsuccessful bids for development around Wrigley Field go back years. In 2010 developers proposed a mixed-use complex wrapping around the southeast corner of Clark and Addison Streets that never happened. Last year AN contributor Edward Lifson hosted a discussion at Moe's Cantina in Chicago with Elva Rubio, Bill Savage, Dan Meis, and Jonathan Eig “to discover why design matters (even if it might not help the Cubs win the World Series).”