Battles over new stadiums and arenas for the major sports leagues might garner the biggest headlines, but the greater interest in new projects nationwide is coming from colleges and smaller leagues.
And the Washington area is no exception.
Brett Fuller, director of business development at the engineering and architecture firm AECOM, and his colleague Steve Terrill recently handicapped opportunities in this region for Capital Business. AECOM is one of a half dozen or so architecture firms that travel the world drawing up stadiums and arenas. Locally they designed the Verizon Center, the Comcast Center at the University of Maryland and John Paul Jones Arena at the University of Virginia. They are also designing facilities for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Here’s a look at what projects Fuller and AECOM colleague Steve Terrill are watching for the Washington area, loosely ranked by what is most likely to actually get built.
1. Potomac Nationals minor league baseball stadium in Woodbridge. No naming rights have been announced for this project yet, but otherwise all the pieces are in place for a $25 million, 6,000-seat stadium just off Interstate 95 in Prince William County. The stadium will be part of the mixed-use Stonebridge at Potomac Town Center project, and AECOM is designing it. The first pitch could be thrown in the 2015 season.
2. Loudoun Hounds baseball stadium in Loudoun County. A 5,500-seat minor league park is planned as part of the One Loudoun development in Ashburn. The team has a name and logo but no players yet. It would share space with Virginia Cavalry FC soccer team, which also does not exist yet.
3. D.C. United stadium in Southwest D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray is on board and so is the team for a 20,000-square-foot Major League Soccer stadium on Buzzard Point, but major obstacles remain in persuading the D.C. Council and taxpayers to put up half the cost.
4. University of Maryland indoor practice facility. Populous, a firm from Kansas City, has already begun floating designs for a practice field and office complex that could serve lacrosse, track, baseball and soccer teams as Maryland enters the Big Ten conference. No financing has been announced.
5. Shady Grove arena in Montgomery County. A pair of local entrepreneurs have been trying to assemble the land needed for an arena resembling the Patriot Center near the Shady Grove Metro station. The land isn’t lined up yet, but it’s pitched as a venue for everything from high school graduations to Arena Football League games.
6. Multi-use stadium in Virginia Beach. Virginia Beach would like to attract an NBA team, and courted the Sacramento Kings, but it may have to get in line behind slightly larger towns like, oh, say, Seattle. Regardless, Fuller says the Sprint Center in Kansas City has demonstrated that a major, multi-use indoor arena can work financially without a big league franchise and he sees it getting built.
7. George Mason University football stadium. Here things get a little hypothetical, given that George Mason has no football team. University stakeholders and funders have been pushing for one, however, and Fuller’s bet is that it will not be far off given the efforts by other so-called commuter schools like UNC-Charlotte, Florida Atlantic and Virginia Commonwealth.
“If it’s a commuter school, the students have no allegiance, no loyalty,” Fuller said. “At a commuter school, half the kids in the stands are wearing another team’s gear.”
Mason enjoyed a surge in popularity and student applications when its basketball team made the Final Four in 2006 and the idea would be that football could further raise the school’s profile among prospective students and donors, even if it loses money.
8. Howard University football stadium. A newcomer to William H. Greene Stadium on Howard’s campus in Northwest D.C. might think they’ve wandered into a high school stadium given its relatively small size. “It’s hard to say it’s in bad shape,” Fuller said of Greene. “It hardly exists at all.” Ouch.
9. A new professional football stadium to replace Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium. The hurdles here are obvious. The Washington Redskins lease at FedEx Field doesn’t expire until 2027 and includes stiff team penalties if it is broken. And most every official in D.C., including avid Redskins fan Vincent C. Gray (the mayor) wants to see the team change its name, particularly if it wants a stadium on federal land.
10. The 2024 Olympics. Some local bigwigs are exploring a bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics, and D.C. is hardly a favorite. Fuller said he considers it a race between San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston and D.C., and gave the locals a 20 percent chance at being named America’s bid. “D.C. is probably at the bottom of that list,” he said.
Follow Jonathan O’Connell on Twitter: @oconnellpostbiz