Urban, Suburban, CBD: What Do NFL Stadium Locations Tell Us About the Rams?

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A central question in the ongoing Rams stadium lease drams, is just what type of stadium owner Stan Kroenke wants. It's often said that he admires Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots and builder of Patriot Place, a suburban stadium with attached shopping center, healthcare facilities and more. Kroenke is a real estate developer, in case you didn't know. Wouldn't a St. Louis Foxboro be attractive to him? Afterall, we have several possible locations (see Fenton Chrysler plant overlay below).

It's also been said that he likes the Colt's Lucas Oil Stadium, which sits adjacent to the Indianapolis Central Business District (CBD) and covention center. The Edward Jones Dome occupies a very similar setting here. So would he want to renovate it? Maybe built on the Bottle District site? All's quiet from the city's Convention and Visitor's Commission (owner of the dome) and the Rams, so why not take a glance at where NFL stadiums are built. 

The labels used are subjective, but of the 31 NFL stadiums, I count 12 suburban sites, 11 next to a city's CBD and eight more in an urban setting away from the CBD. It's a fairly even split. But looking over time, tastes for sites have changed. Starting in 1975 with the Superdome in New Orleans and ending in 2002 with Ford Field in Detroit, 10 of 15 stadiums build were located in a CBD. It seemed to be the default site wherever practical. Since then, five of the seven stadiums built have been in a suburban location. In all, 19 NFL stadiums have been built since the Edward Jones Dome opened in 1995 and at least two more (San Francisco and Minneapolis) will be added to that total soon.

So does the recent suburban trend point towards a Rams stadium outside the city? With Superbowls seemingly not showing a preference for CBD settings to this point, will the recent success of Indianapolis push cities toward more urban locations?

Camp Kroenke
{Patriot Place in Foxboro overlaid on Fenton Chrysler plant site}

NFL stadium spreadsheet

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  • http://yastlblog.blogspot.com/ Kevin Barbeau

    Interesting that of all those stadiums, the Edward Jones Dome may be one of the most “urban-centered” products. Not to say it’s “urban-friendly” by any means, but at least it doesn’t include the vast swath of concentric/blocked parking lots most others in the slideshow have.

    And therein lies the problem. If you want a new stadium downtown, you have to accept that a massive field of parking will be included — it’s just the norm now, whether developing in, near or outside of a CBD. I don’t think St. Louis can afford to/should bow to make that sacrifice — not now when the strongest/most sustained growth it has seen in decades is coming from structural infill and historic rehabilitation.

    The other problem you encounter is that if it’s built in the Bottle District, it won’t be built to replace the Edward Jones Dome. Heads would roll if a stadium still being paid down at the state/county/city level were demolished. No, instead you’ll have two massive, sparsely-used structures abutting I-70 through downtown (say goodbye to the boulevard!) and likely requiring extensive demolition in Columbus Square and the Near North Riverfront…for parking and more parking.

    Kick it to the County, I say — if we want to act regionally, the best way to do that is to relinquish the franchise (and, yes, the lion’s share of football-focused taxes/entertainment dollars) to St. Louis County. Football, to me anyway, has always played more to ranch house ex-urban/suburbans anyway (to the league’s benefit!) so embrace the demographic and let them have it. The only think I would take issue with is if a new stadium in the County determined the new expansion/line of the Metrolink. The two issues need not be connected.

  • ealfotd

    The fact that the EDJ is not paid off is a huge limiting factor. I think the best possible option would be to build in the Bottle District, consolidate the empty lots and empty buildings between Lumiere and the new bridge for use as parking (there’s plenty of space, especially if the elevated section of Hwy 70 can be removed in the process), tear down the dome, and double the size of the convention center so we can get some of the big money conventions that we’re currently too small for. Unfortunately I don’t think you could ever sell this idea to the city or tax payers, even though it would probably be the best for the long-term health of the downtown economy.

    St. Louis has 3 professional sports teams with each stadium less than a mile apart. That is (correct me if I’m wrong) something only 1 other city in the country can claim. I think it is preferable to keep the team downtown if it is at all possible. (Full disclosure: I live 3 blocks from the dome and have Ram’s season tickets.) If not the Bottle District then I’d like to see a site in Kosciusko explored as a possibility. I completely agree that if it moves to the county it must be contingent on Metrolink expansion.

    • Alex Ihnen

      I don’t understand the MetroLink statement. Would it be a good idea to build a $500M+ light rail line to a stadium that’s used eight times a year? No way. The county is not a good place to expand MetroLink in general due to low residential and job density, and the resistance by municipalities to push dense development at existing stations.

      • ealfotd

        You make good points; from a cost benefit perspective (as well as a TOD perspective) you may be correct. There are a few reasons why I would prefer an expansion however.

        1) The suburban (and even some that you consider urban) stadiums that I have been to are a nightmare for out-of-towners to get to/from. In Kansas City there is absolutely no way to get to the stadium from downtown without a car (or a $35 cab ride) and it’s way closer to downtown than Fenton. In San Francisco the only public transportation option is specific bus routes that only run on game day, but the buses are so popular that if you’re not at the first stop on the route then you’re going to be late for the game because numerous full buses will pass you before one comes by with room for more passengers (and the cab ride is even more expensive than KC). After the game is an even greater nightmare, we stood in the line for buses for two hours and barely moved before we got fed up and hired a limo with the group of people standing around us (cheaper per person than a cab).

        2) Taking the Metrolink to and from Ram’s games is popular. Many suburban people that I know prefer not to drive because of the perceived lack of parking downtown (haha!) and the expense. I don’t have access to Metro’s books, but I imagine that those 8 Sundays a year are very profitable.

        3) Lots of people come from out of town for games. They stay in downtown hotels, they eat at downtown restaurants, and they drink in downtown bars. A robust public transit option to and from the games will keep some of those people downtown. Assuming that people are only traveling for the game, a lack of excess hotel space near the new dome could discourage some people from traveling in the first place.

        4) Drunk driving. I love the fact that I can walk to the Dome because after games I am rarely in a condition to drive. I like to think that at least some of the people who tend to imbibe plan ahead and take the train so they can either avoid driving altogether or minimize the distance driven after the game by parking at a station near their home. No train = more dangerous roads (8 days a year).

        Either way, I’d rather it just stay downtown.

        • STLEnginerd

          Gots to say there are quite few underdeveloped metrolink stations (Sunnen, Wellston, Rock Road, East Riverfront) not to mention location along the current link that could have a station added if a stadium were built next to it (Jefferson). To say hey pick anywhere in the region and we’ll get you a metrolink would be pretty generous. Link expansion has to be be driven by more than Rams football. But Metrolink SHOULD be a consideration for Kronke as well as a nearby interstate access and that will likely keep him in the city IMHO.

          Now if Kronke decided he wanted to build in north or south city/county somewhere I would be saying, “Damn we need to get him a metrolink!!!!” ;)

  • ZGare

    Why don’t just hand the current stadium to Stan if he will agree to make the rest of the payments? Then he can make it into whatever he needs.

  • Brian Ireland

    What they tell us is irrelevant; Stan Kroenke should pay for what he “wants.” Not one red cent of public money should be given to one of the wealthiest men in the world so that he can build a new football stadium.

  • Mike Pomatto

    Building the stadium on the Pruitt-Igoe spot would provide a much needed boost both to the economy of that area of the city as well as a much needed moral boost to the entire city.