The Future of Vacant Sports Venues, Part II

by | Feb 11, 2018 | Baseball, Basketball, Hockey, Indy Baseball, Marc Viquez, MiLB, NBA, NHL |

Stadium Journey recently discussed ten sporting venues that had been left vacant or were set for demolishing. Sadly, two of these venues were razed–Georgia Dome in Atlanta and Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan–but it raised a serious question on what municipalities would do once a sports facility is left vacant by its main tenants.

A quick look on the internet and other databases came up with at least 10 more facilities that have been left abandoned and are deteriorated as I type the next word of this article. In some cases, there have been preliminary steps and discussions to renovate crumbling stadiums and bring them back to life in various styles. 

Le Colisée, Quebec City, Quebec- The former home of the Quebec Nordiques is up for sale to anyone who has a Loonie in his or her pocket, that’s one dollar for us folks here in the States. The storied arena with its modern and Art Deco design has not been in use since a Metallica concert in late 2015 is looking for a prospective buyer. If there is not a buyer for the building, it could be slated for demolition.

The price of demolition has not been made public and it has been speculated that the cost of upkeep is inexpensive. The building is still in sound condition but is in need electrical repairs. It currently sits next to the brand new Centre Vidéotron that one day might be the home for NHL hockey in the city.

LaGrave Field, Ft. Worth, Texas-The former home of the Ft. Worth Cats minor league baseball teams is only 15-years-old, but it has been vacant since the team ceased operations after the 2014 campaign. The current ballpark was rebuilt on site of the original LaGrave Field that stood between 1926 and 1958 and was the home to minor league baseball in the Texas League.

The 5,000-seat stadium stands in squalid condition due to vandalization, overgrown weeds and grass, and torn walls. The scoreboard is tagged in graffiti and there is even evidence of the homeless living underneath the grandstand. In July of last year, the concession stand caught on fire.

Ft. Worth Mayor Betsy Price would like to see the stadium come back to life, but it will take millions to renovate. However, if the former ballpark is ever restored it would be than just a ballpark, hosting a wide range of sporting events including soccer and football.

Joe Louis Arena, Detroit-The former home of the Detroit Red Wings stands on a 5-acre of property along the Detroit River overlooking the skyline of Windsor, Ontario. Its location could open up a doorway to downtown Detroit and its prime real estate is attractive to future developers.

The 38-year-old arena will be razed and replaced with a 300 room hotel. Additional development, such as offices, apartments, restaurants and retail stores could also be built next to the hotel. The site could also become a walkable area where people, work, live and play turning it into one of the city’s hip new neighborhoods.

The lease agreement on the Joe Louis Arena ended in December and the city has 90-days of the last day of the lease agreement expiring to begin the demolition process. It will cost the city $6 million to raze the once iconic hockey venue. The City of Detroit has until May to start demolition work.

Surf Stadium, Atlantic City, NJ-The former home of the Atlantic City Surf of the Atlantic League and Can-Am League has been sitting idle without pro baseball since the team closed up shop after the 2009 season. Since then the ballpark was left to deteriorate only to be brought back to life and then left in ruins for the second time.

The field, which is in great shape, is still in use by local high school and community college teams, but the tarp hangs in the right field, seats are faded, and both scoreboard and lights have not operated since Superstorm Sandy.

Former Surf owner Frank Boulton is interested in purchasing the ballpark on the 143-acre property and renovating it for professional baseball. This will include picking up the $1 million to repair both the stadium’s lighting and scoreboard.

Another proposal submitted by Glen Straub, owner of Revel, and under the company Atlantic Adventures LLC, proposed converting the property back into an airport and make it used for business aviation and entertainment. He would like to reopen a portion of the runway and see more people fly into town from other cities.

Cohen Stadium-El Paso, Texas-Built in 1990, the former home of the Texas League El Paso Diablos has been absent of professional baseball since the second incarnation of the team left town to make way for the El Paso Chihuahuas of Pacific Coast League in 2014. The stadium was refurbished on a tight budget and hosted a concert or two, but the city is reimagining the property without baseball.

After seven months of planning, the ballpark will be knocked down and replaced with a regional water park and media broadcasting studio. The 50-acre property will also include an urban plaza, jumbo screen, athletic facilities, a hotel, retail space, a zip line, and greenspace.  The city had set aside about $7.7 million for the water park in December.

Fairgrounds Stadium, Shreveport, Louisiana-The former home of minor league baseball in the Southern League is another ballpark left in ruins. Built in 1986, it was the home to Double-A baseball in the Texas League until 2002. Independent ball would fill the void for the next 9-years before closing up shop as well.

The city would like to restore it back to a baseball facility and not repurpose it for residential or retail use. The cost of such an operation could cost $5 million to make it ADA accessible and renovate the bathrooms and locker rooms.

An extra $600,000 would also be needed to rid the stadium of bats, the flying kind. At times you can hear them in the rafters outside in the parking lot. The city already spends up to $200,000 to maintain the exterior and power wash to keep down the smell of the poisonous bat droppings.

There are no potential buyers for the ballpark at the moment and city officials know that professional baseball won’t likely be part of its plans. It’s hoping baseball on the local and amateur level could play ball once again on its diamond.

Joe Davis Stadium, Huntsville, Alabama-Here is an interesting plan for the former home of the Southern League Huntsville Stars, convert the former ballpark into two outdoor amphitheaters.

The structure is still in sound condition, the parking is plentiful, and there is a need for an outdoor concert venue of its kind in northern Alabama. A plan will create a 10,000-seat concert venue between the first and third base while adding a smaller 3,000-seat hall adjacent to it. A $48,000 study by Matheny Goldmon Architects conducted the research on the adaptive use of the stadium.

Cooper Stadium, Columbus, Ohio-It was once the home of minor league baseball and last used by the Columbus Clippers of the International League a decade ago. The stadium was to be converted into a racetrack and automobile research center under the name Sports Pavilion and Automobile Research Center (SPARC).

The ballpark would have been renovated into an 8,500 venue with an adjacent automotive research and technology building. A majority of the stadium was demolished in 2014, but not much work has been done since. The old club suites that were installed in 1977 are rusting away above the original grandstand, the new track is left in tatters, and tall weeds have taken up the old outfield space.

Calls to the Arshot Investment Group, the developing company of the property, have not been answered leading many to question if any changes would come to the property. The stadium opened as Red Bird Stadium in 1932 and would be renamed Cooper Stadium in 1984.

Astrodome, Houston, Texas-The 8th Wonder of the World remains intact since the Astros moved out after the 1999 season; however, it appears that the city is not sure what to do with the world’s first domed stadium. It costs the county $2 million per year to upkeep it and would be around $60 million to raze the structure.

There have been various discussions to save the historic structure that included a 2013 $217 million bond proposal to turn the facility into an energy-efficient event center. A 2014 a feasibility study suggesting converting into a place that would house indoor carnival rides and host events like high school football games, and a $105 million project in 2016 that would have turned the dome into an event or exhibition space while generating revenue from parking fees.

The 2013 and 2016 plans were both rejected by voters and the 2014 plan would have cost $200 million, a princely sum for high school football games in a state where there are plenty of places for high school contests.

Izod Center, East Rutherford, New Jersey-The former home of the New Jersey Devils and Nets has been closed for over two years and sits in an area between MetLife Stadium and the construction site of the mega-mall American Dream that is scheduled to open in 2019.

The arena debuted in 1981 and sat over 20,000 for basketball and 19,040 for hockey. The Devils relocated to Newark to play at the Prudential Center in 2007 and the Nets joined them before moving east to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn a few years later.

There are some who think the facility should be knocked down citing that the building is past its prime, too big, and will never host professional sporting events. However, the arena is still being used for concert rehearsals at MetLife Stadium across the parking lot and it is relatively inexpensive to upkeep.

The American Dream is also slated to open in less than two years that would finally bring the entertainment complex to the Meadowlands, perhaps providing a few more years of life to the arena in some capacity. The mega mall would feature 500 stores including LEGOLAND, a miniature city park for kids, 4-D movie theater, indoor ski and snowboard hill, an aquarium, and an indoor water and amusement park.

The Palace of Auburn Hills, Auburn Hills, Michigan-The former home of the Detroit Pistons was built in 1988 and its closing was a result of the team relocating to downtown Detroit to play in the Little Caesars Arena with the Detroit Red Wings. After 9 months of speculation, the arena’s last even was from local rock legend Bob Seger this past September.

The Palace set the stage for future sports arenas with club level suites, vast concourses, and other amenities that are now commonplace. The population boom to the suburbs that was predicted to swoon never materialized and people are returning close to the city of Detroit to work, live, and play.

According to the Detroit Free Press, the arena property is most likely to be sold and redeveloped into a high-tech research park, but it’s uncertain when that will happen.

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