The idea to build mixed-use districts around sports venues started in the late 90s when franchises wanted to turn stadiums into year-round, multi-purpose facilities. Initially, teams programmed the stadium as the main attraction, adding multiple tenants, hosting concerts, live entertainment productions, conventions, corporate meetings and private events, and adding more restaurants and amenities inside the venue. Now, instead of programming 10...40...maybe 80 days out the of year, they could program 200.
While successful for a while, focusing solely on stadium programming reached a topping out point and new and diverse revenue streams were sought out. So, franchises started adding a restaurant & bar outside the venue, then a hotel, and maybe apartments or office buildings to attract more visitors. The notion of “come early, stay late” and sports-anchored live, work, play development began.
"This is how the idea of adjacent sports developments was born,” says Erik Johannes, business development executive at Mortenson. “Franchises realized that by creating an ancillary development around the venue, they could significantly increase their earning potential by programming not only the stadium but all of the things around it.”
A Model Benefitting Sports Franchises and Communities
“Adjacent developments, a ‘sports district,’ are the holy grail,” says Adam Hardy, director of project development at Mortenson. “The venue is a team’s home, the district is their neighborhood and it’s a very desirable area for people to live, work, and play. It increases the fan experience, engagement in their brand, and ultimately increases revenues and drives up franchise valuations. It’s a smart way to increase the ROI on stadiums they’ve invested millions or billions of dollars in designing and building.”
Mixed-use sports developments benefit not only franchises, but the surrounding community. Hotels, bars, retail, and entertainment make an area more attractive and create local jobs. Adding office and residential spaces draws traffic year-round, helping to create an active, vibrant atmosphere. Location matters, but so does what you decide to put into the sports mixed-use development.
“Adjacent developments don’t need to be in a downtown area to be successful,” says Dan Wacker, director of preconstruction at Mortenson. “You can create a community almost anywhere, as long as you have amenities and attractions that create an accessible destination where people will want to gather.”
What do franchise owners and developers typically include in mixed-use sports developments? Well, it depends on several factors addressed in the early planning stages of sports construction. Revenue goals are certainly part of it, but partnerships, financing, location, parcel size, and demographics also determine the product mix. However, there are some commonalities among the adjacent developments we’re seeing in pro sports franchises.
Food, Entertainment, and Services
Restaurants, bars, entertainment, and business or personal services located outside the venue keep people on site longer on game days and attract visitors throughout the week. The goal is to attract visitors and make the opportunity appealing to business partners.
“Franchises are getting creative in how they work with brands,” says Logan Gerken, vice president, and general manager at Mortenson. “Some developments aim for unique destination restaurants, retail, and specialty services. Others mix more common amenities in higher densities with the purpose of having a bit of something for everyone.”
Logan explains that for businesses, association with a pro sports brand is a big deal. “When it comes to commercial real estate there are lots of choices. Ultimately the decision of where to locate needs to be an experience that’s as equally appealing to the brand as it is for fans and visitors.”
Partnerships with reputable hotel brands drive traffic to the development on game day and for business purposes and recreational travel. With on-site accommodations, people are likely to stay in the area longer and spend money on food, entertainment, shopping, and specialty services.
Being at the center of it all is a huge draw for anyone craving an urban living experience—even when situated outside of the city center. Access to attractive apartment amenities, plus the convenience and “cool factor” of living within walking distance of a pro sports venue, attracts renters.
Class A Office Space
Offices in prime locations are attractive to both businesses and their employees. Securing an anchor tenant and tenant partners early in the design stages prevents buildings from sitting empty for months when franchises could be generating revenue.
Districts Setting the Standard for Successful Developments
From ballparks to basketball arenas, sports teams across the U.S. have invested in building mixed-use sports developments—and they all have a different variety of property types and amenities.
The Battery Atlanta: Atlanta Braves Truist Park
The Battery Atlanta® is a 77-acre development surrounding Truist Park, located about 10 miles from Downtown Atlanta, Georgia. With its size and integrated amenities, it sets the gold standard for sports entertainment complexes. The development offers luxury and boutique hotel accommodations, an apartment complex, and 1.25 million square feet of Class A office space.
Entertainment options include an eclectic mix of dining, specialty retail, and personal services ranging from ice cream shops to yoga studios. A cinema, social and virtual gaming experiences, and two live music venues—the Coca-Cola Roxy and Park Bench Battery—provide year-round, revenue-generating entertainment.
The Deer District: Milwaukee Bucks Fiserv Forum
The Deer District is a 30-acre development adjacent to Fiserv Forum in downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The district has a hotel, residential lofts connected to Fiserv Forum via skywalk, and a Class-A office development with 242,500 square feet of office space and on-site parking. Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin Sports Science Center and a parking ramp round out the property mix.
Entertainment includes a mixture of chain and unique bars and restaurants. A 2.3-acre public plaza provides outdoor space for game-day activities, plus festivals and community events.
Thrive City: Golden State Warriors Chase Center
Thrive City sits on 3.2 acres next to Chase Center in San Francisco's Mission Bay neighborhood. With a small footprint in a densely populated urban environment, the district manages to create a destination by packing in a variety of restaurants plus a wine bar, brewery, coffee shop, bake shop, and bank.
The outdoor community space hosts public festivals, live music events, farmers markets, and wellness-focused activities like yoga. In 2022, Thrive City hosted an outdoor watch party for the NBA playoffs, complete with lawn games and activities.
Title Town: Green Bay Packers Lambeau Field
Title Town is a 45-acre development adjacent to Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The district has a modern-day lodge hotel, residential flats and townhomes, 150,000 square feet of Class-A office space, and the Bellin Health Titletown Sports Medicine and Orthopedics Clinic.
Entertainment includes restaurants, a brewery, and virtual gaming experiences. A large public park hosts community activities year-round and features a playground, gathering areas, and a football field. In the wintertime, there’s also a skating rink and tubing hill.
Sports adjacent developments don’t necessarily have to be outside of the game stadium to be successful. Team training facilities can also benefit from building mixed-use developments adjacent to their property.
The Star in Frisco: Dallas Cowboys Training Facility
The Star in Frisco, located in Frisco, Texas, is the 91-acre headquarters and training facility of the Dallas Cowboys. The development includes Ford Center, a 510,000-square-foot indoor training facility used by the team, the City of Frisco, and its high school varsity football team. There’s also an apartment tower, a hotel and resort, and the Baylor Scott & White Health Therapy & Research Center. For businesses, the district offers upscale, membership-based private office and coworking spaces.
Entertainment options in the district include over 35 restaurants, shops, and specialty services, and the Tostitos Championship Plaza, complete with a 50-yard replica turf field. .
Viking Lakes: Minnesota Vikings Training Facility
Viking Lakes in Eagan, Minnesota, spans 200 acres and is home to the Vikings training facility. The focal point of the development is TCO stadium, a 7,500-person capacity, multi-use outdoor venue. Also on site is an apartment complex, hotel, 2 million square feet of office and medical office space, and Twin Cities Orthopedics Eagan medical office building.
Entertainment comes in the form of indoor and outdoor dining options, 160,000 square feet of retail, several miles of walking and biking trails, and a community plaza with a 9,000-square-foot artificial turf field for events.
With a growing number of adjacent developments popping up, the trend of building mixed-use sports districts isn’t going anywhere. Even collegiate teams are looking at ways to generate revenue during games and the off-season and create a destination for fans and the community. The logistics and financing for sports construction projects of this magnitude can seem overwhelming, but with the right developer, designer and builder, you can phase the project and work on securing the right business partners for your district.
“It’s not always feasible to have everything open at once,” says Logan. “Building stadiums and mixed-use developments requires meticulous planning and a long-term vision. But the lasting community impacts and ROI on this type of programming is well worth the time and financial investments involved.”
Helping You Expand the Universe of Big Ideas
Mortenson’s Sports + Entertainment team has decades of experience building collegiate and pro sports venues across the U.S. With a strong reputation and expertise in handling complex projects, we can partner with you to build a venue that serves as an entertainment destination for decades to come.