The Next Wave in MLS Stadiums? Bring Your Walking Shoes

Columbus Crew Stadium rendering 3

A look at the next wave of MLS stadiums opening this season and in future years reveals one big commonality: An urban experience eschewing the old days of a sporting facility surrounded by a sea of parking.

When Allianz Field opens in April 2019, it will be positioned as a very urban stadium, with fans expected to seek out alternative routes to Minnesota United games. This works in Minneapolis and St. Paul where every major sporting facility opening in the past decade has sported an urban location. And, in a masterful success of planning, everything is located right off the same light-rail line. Located on the MetroTransit Green Line: Target Field (Minnesota Twins), U.S. Bank Stadium (Minnesota Vikings), TCF Bank Stadium (University of Minnesota football and previously the temporary home of Minnesota United), Allianz Field and CHS Field (St. Paul Saints).

Taking light rail to a sporting event is cheaper than driving and scoring a parking spot. In both cases, however, walking will be part of the agenda, whether it’s a short walk from the train stop or a long walk from a remote parking spot.

Allianz Field is not a pioneer in this respect: when Audi Field opening last year as the home of D.C. United, an emphasis was placed on mass transit and ridesharing serving commuting needs. And two new stadiums planned for the future will also be urban facilities with limited onsite parking.

In Cincinnati, the planned new home of FC Cincinnati will be served by a parking ramp, but much of the parking will take place in the surrounding area. And, given MLS demographics, there will be plenty of ridesharing to and from the stadium. In Columbus, fans attending matches at the planned new home of Columbus Crew SC will also be walking to the facility, as existing Arena District ramp and street parking will be utilized. From the Columbus Dispatch:

Instead, city and Crew officials expect most soccer fans to leave their cars at existing parking facilities in the Arena District and walk about 15 minutes from parking, as far as a mile away, near the Greater Columbus Convention Center. Google Maps estimates that walk to be more like 20 minutes to the new 20,000-seat stadium.

“They don’t expect and don’t want a lot of cars over there,” said Jennifer Gallagher, director of the city’s Department of Public Service. “They really want to make it much more of a pedestrian, open plaza-type area and give it much more of a pedestrian feel. We’re really focusing on pedestrians, bikes, versus a lot of cars coming in and out.”

Parking can be a contentious issue: many fans are accustomed to pulling into a huge parking lot right outside the main gates of a sporting facility. But as we’re seeing with this new wave of MLS facilities, the emphasis will be on an urban experience featuring mass transit and ridesharing—and this is certainly playing out as a key trend of the future.

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August Publications