With the dawn of the 2020s, the NFL should have several stadium issues resolved in the coming years, as multiple teams are mapping out long-term plans.
In the 2010s, there were significant shifts in the NFL when it came to stadiums and markets. The league’s long-awaited return to Los Angeles produced a new stadium that will open in Inglewood for the 2020 season, hosting both the Rams and the Chargers. The Oakland Raiders were able to move ahead with plans to relocate to Las Vegas, where they will open Allegiant Stadium in 2020. Elsewhere, both New York teams, the San Francisco 49ers, the Minnesota Vikings and Atlanta Falcons opened new stadiums, while the Baltimore Ravens, Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers completed substantial renovations to their facilities.
That helped contribute to a busy decade in the NFL, though there are a few situations that remain unsettled going into the 2020s. Over the coming years, a few teams figure to either replace or substantially renovate their existing facilities, and we look at a few of these cases with our NFL stadium issues to watch in the new decade.
Renovate or replace New Era Field? That is the question that Bills owner Pegula Sports & Entertainment (PSE) is currently trying to answer, as it has commissioned CAA Icon to conduct a study of the team’s stadium options that should be finalized in 2020.
The shortcomings of New Era Field of suburban Orchard Park, which opened in 1973, are well-documented, and it is not a suitable long-term NFL home in its current condition. That could prompt discussion about a new stadium as part of a larger economic development project in or closer to downtown Buffalo, perhaps with PSE and local and state governments partnering on an open-air facility that keeps costs down while preserving the home-field advantage that comes with late-season games in cold Buffalo conditions. At the same time, funding a new stadium could prove to be a challenge, and the Pegulas might decide that a substantial renovation to New Era Field is the best path forward. Regardless, the status quo will not hold for the Bills, so the Pegulas will want to settle on a solution before too long.
Once the Redskins finally settle on new stadium plans, it should be one of the most intriguing facility developments that the NFL has seen in years. Getting to that point is a challenge, however, given the obstacles that exist to redeveloping the RFK Stadium site and the lack of momentum toward a new stadium elsewhere.
Under owner Daniel Snyder, the team has been mapping out its stadium options ahead of the expiration of its FedEx Field lease in 2027. A move from Landover, MD back to the District or Northern Virginia, where land near Dulles Airport has been mentioned as an option, could be in the cards. Still, the team is dealing with the current priority of a shakeup of its football operations after another disappointing season, and the years of on-field struggles—combined with their controversial name—have not helped the Redskins when it comes to building public support for a new stadium.
While the possibility of the team remaining in Maryland has not been dismissed, do not expect a major renovation to FedEx Field to be the long-term solution. There has been virtually no discussion of a renovation to this point, and the team will likely want a site with better access and connectivity to the District in its next stadium plan.
For the time being, Panthers owner David Tepper is proceeding with plans to upgrade Bank of America Stadium ahead of the debut of an MLS expansion team in 2021. Even with MLS plans moving forward, however, he does not seem to have completely turned his attention away from the idea of potentially pursuing a new stadium down the road.
Building that stadium is likely going to require some buy-in from local or state governments, however, who will have to be sold on the prospects of drawing major events—and perhaps generating associated economic development—in order to commit substantial funds to a new stadium project. It could be the next decade before any new stadium plans in Charlotte do move forward, but it would not be surprising to see Tepper work to start accelerating new stadium discussions at some point later in the 2020s—especially if MLS proves to be a success.
While we do not expect a new stadium in this case, previous comments from Titans ownership yields some intrigue about the potential for future Nissan Stadium renovations. Last year, controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk indicated the franchise that will pursue renovations to the facility, with the elaborate makeover to Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium serving as a potential model.
Hard Rock Stadium’s renovations have made it more viable for other events, and it stands reason that the Titans will want take advantage of being in the Nashville market to bring more uses to Nissan Stadium. At the same time, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has invested hundreds of millions into renovating Hard Rock Stadium, so the Titans and local officials will have to map out a costly funding plan for upgrading Nissan Stadium. Even if the Titans do not follow the Hard Rock Stadium template exactly, there could still be a major renovation that focuses on upgrading premium areas and hospitality offerings. The Titans’ lease expires in 2028, so it stands reason that upgrades could be mapped out in the coming years.
Other Issues to Watch
The Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals and Jacksonville Jaguars all could make major upgrades to their stadiums during this decade, based on the desires that those organizations have disclosed publicly. The New Orleans Saints already have a $450-million renovation to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in the works, with that project to be completed in 2024.
Meanwhile, plans to redevelop the area around Empower Field at Mile High are moving forward, which should help the Denver Broncos as they upgrade that stadium in the future. It is also worth noting that the Kansas City Chiefs’ lease to Arrowhead Stadium will expire in 2031, which could open the door for discussions about their facility plans late in this decade.
New Era Field image courtesy Buffalo Bills. Renderings courtesy Bjarke Ingels Group.
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