As we turn the calendar from February to March, we get a little closer to warmth and sunshine. Although it’s been an usually warm winter – no doubt compensation for last year – I’m sure plenty of people are getting the itch to spend more time outside. A day at the ballpark is one such way to have a little fun in the sun; and in Boston, taking in a game at Fenway Park is a tradition.
If you read my past writings on the Olympics, you know that sporting venues are an item of personal interest. While my interest is predominantly in the funding and economic development aspects of stadiums, I’ve spent enough time in them to come up with a list of what I like to see in a sports venue.
As with all forms of real estate, location is a critical element. Attendance is certainly fueled by team performance and cost, but the effort of getting to the venue can’t be overlooked. A local example is the New England Revolution, who play at Gillette Stadium. Despite growing interest in Major League Soccer, the Revolution cannot tap into the Greater Boston because of a lack of mass transit options for games. Because of the size of the crowds and the infrequency of games, it’s reasonable to locate football stadiums where space allows for it. In fact, the location of Foxboro enabled the Krafts to make Patriot Place a huge attraction beyond football. For teams playing multiple games per week, it’s important to make sure people can get to and from the venue with relative ease.
While the playing surface is generally well regulated and measured, the rest of the venue is a ball of clay for molding. I’m a big fan of sports venues that create attractive environments that supersede the game itself. AT&T Park in San Francisco and Camden Yards in Baltimore are both iconic stadiums that play off of spectacular backdrops. As for indoor venues, there are still ways to be creative and stand out. The Gutterson Fieldhouse, home of the Vermont Catamounts, has a lobby that doubles as a gallery honoring alumni that played in the National Hockey League. Madison Square Garden runs tours to honor the rich history of the venue
In 2016, we have an app for everything, so it only makes sense that sports venues would adapt accordingly. Concessions delivery, mobile video replay and even bathroom wait time trackers are great ways to merge the comforts of watching a game at home with the experience of seeing it in person. Of course, having these features means that the venue needs to provide support. Cellphone charging stations have become almost essential at this point. Venues should also have the bandwidth to support tens of thousands of people on their devices at one time. The venue should pay particular attention to this one, as they lose out on the free publicity of social media promotion if fans can’t get online.