When they’re not being utilised for sport, stadiums are supporting their home cities and becoming home to theatre productions and music concerts and offering retail and hospitality amenities.

Sports fans are also benefiting from pre- and post-game activities, with big screens, retractable roofs and moveable seating allowing for the stadium to be used year-round regardless of weather conditions.

This movement is supported by cities, which benefit both economically and culturally by creating active spaces. Cities are also receiving an economic benefit by capitalising on sports crowds while creating active public spaces accessible to all city inhabitants.

Some stadiums have become so iconic and so active, they’ve brought about an increase in residential and commercial dwellings nearby.

In Mark S. Rosentraub’s book Reversing Urban Decline: Why and How Sports, Entertainment, and Culture Turn Cities into Major League Winners, he states: “New sports and cultural facilities can be anchors for the redevelopment of nearby real estate. The facilities themselves are catalysts or engines of real estate development strategies. In addition, by their physical size, these facilities have the potential to become iconic assets that replace dilapidate and deteriorating buildings.”

Connectivity remains at the heart of these buildings according to John Shreve, principal at global firm Populous, which is renowned for their stadium designs.

Shreve has observed a huge paradigm shift in how buildings have been designed over the last three decades.

“The buildings themselves have transformed from introverted to extroverted buildings with a greater focus on connecting a city’s fabric, spurring development and capturing the culture and excitement,” he said.

Shreve said new entertainment stadiums have arisen out of a combination of cities and professional clubs being more aware of the opportunities and sports fans themselves demanding “more powerful experiences.”

“With higher quality food and beverage options, access to retail and entertainment options before and after a game – are all driving this trend,” said Shreve. “Anymore, single-use buildings surrounded by parking spaces don’t cut it.”

Perth Stadium plans to offer social spaces that incorporate food, beverage and entertainment for other events

Perth Stadium plans to offer social spaces that incorporate food, beverage and entertainment for other events

Shreve also predicts it will stay this way.

“The buildings of the future are more transparent, permeable and connected to thriving or growing districts,” he said. “Designing for connectivity to the city’s urban fabric and creating an experience that starts long before you enter an arena’s doors or stadium gates.”

Here are the five ways for a stadium to be entertainment worthy:


According to Shreve, architecturally, stadiums should reflect their surrounding area or offer cultural significance or the city and it’s inhabitants.

Perth’s new stadium, which was announced last year, will feature a striking bronze façade reminiscent of Western Australia’s unique landscape. The design of the sporting and recreation precinct surrounding the stadium is also inspired by Dreamtime stories and the connection with the Swan River.

Shreve said stadium design should lean on urban design features, including public gathering spaces and green space, while allowing for multiple uses.

“A street isn’t just a street,” he said. “A parking garage isn’t just a parking garage. As designers, we think about how to transform these areas into part of the destination and the experience.”

Shreve cited to Kansas City’s Sprint Centre arena, which features a glass façade that makes it appear transparent, tightly weaving into the district.

Adjacent to the arena is the Power and Light District, a 10-block retail and entertainment district.

“Providing anchor development brings people to the area before games and makes them hang around to socialise, shop and eat long after the event has finished,” Shreve said.

He added the arena’s public space includes a large plaza, public art, pedestrian access and graphics that all identify with the city of Kansas.

“With a fully covered canopy over the plaza space, it has become a destination to go catch a concert or watch a big game surrounded by thousands of energetic strangers,” he said.

Neighbourly Feel

A stadium, ballpark or arena can transform a city when it directly connects to a mixed-use development, including neighbouring residential.

“When designing we keep in mind, at all times, the people who will live with in and among the buildings we design,” Shreve said. “The benefit is in the memories people build and the continuity of experience these districts allow a city to create.”

“When a city is really energetic, bold, fun district near their anchor venues, everyone wins.

“It comes to define that the city’s culture is, what it means to live there and what visitors can expect from these richer, more diverse experiences.”

The 2014 study Does Having a Major and Lucrative Sports Arena Improve a Neighborhood’s Economy & Quality of Life? found improved quality of life when surveying local residents and businesses around the New Yankee Stadium.

“Clearly living in an area like Yankee Stadium can improve the quality of your life, especially if you are a Yankee Fan,” study author Natalie Hernandez of Dyson College of Arts and Sciences, Pace University said.

“Arguably if you have lived in the area long enough you can appreciate the added safety and decrease in crime that many residents feel has happened since the new stadium, and for any South Bronx resident this definitely is an upside that comes with having the stadium.”

On a commercial  level, offices and hotels are also rising around key stadium precincts.

Earlier this year, the Daily Telegraph reported that a $100 million entertainment precinct between Parramatta Leagues Club and Pirtek Stadium was planned that would include a fitness and aquatic centre, bars, cafes, restaurants and 10-pin bowling centre.

The proposal also includes a six-storey, 200-room hotel.


“On a more tactical level, these developments help with traffic and parking flow on game days as well, because they distribute the flow of traffic over many hours before and after an event; they also help generate revenue for cities,” said Shreve.

In the case of the Perth Stadium, the transport strategy ensures the safe and efficient movement of 83 per cent of a capacity crowd within an hour of an event finishing according to the official website.

There will also be new infrastructure that includes a six-platform Stadium Station and the Swan River Pedestrian Bridge.

Sydney’s redevelopment of ANZ stadium continues, and in February this year plans for a light rail corridor from Parramatta to Sydney Olympic Park were announced.

The light rail link will move 5,000 passengers per hour in both directions through the corridor with 40 light rail services to replace 200 buses on the road.

The service will also support the expected 190,000 people expected to be living in the corridor by 2036, linking back to the residential appeal in an area with a stadium entertainment precinct.

Fans First

While the cities are enjoying countless benefits, stadiums still hold a “fans first” approach to design, recognising that the fan experience is still at the core of the structure.

“Fans become more connected to their city and these districts if we get them there early and keep them longer,” Shreve said. “The experience and memories become something worth coming back for time and time again.”

As mentioned earlier, many stadiums are topping off their structures with retractable roofs to allow for all year round play, moveable seats, field adjustments and quality hospitality amenities during the game.

Art and Science

Shreve said his firm takes an art and science approach to stadium design.

He also says that with any of these projects, the stakes are high to create a design that will stand the test of time.

“(Clients) give us a chance to impact the image, branding and perception of the city, and because of that, the art is critical,” he said.

The “science” or technical aspects of the project tie into the building type, ensuring the building delivers an experience both inside and out for not just fans, but customers, athletes and staff.

Wayfinding at Sun Life Stadium

Wayfinding at Sun Life Stadium

Finally, with more and more of these projects being proposed and built, many firms are expanding on their sports arm, particularly because the business is thriving.

Because of the shift, sports venues – once designed with sports fans singularly in mind – are opening up to the public at large, allowing them to enjoy more than just a game.