Can Cities Build New Stadiums That Will Last 100 Years Given Climate Change?

A rendering of the proposed ballpark in Oakland.    Image: Bjarke Ingles Group/Bjarke Ingles Group via The Washington Post

A new stadium is a major economic boon and a huge financial commitment for the cities and sports teams that build them — and as a result, increasingly climate change impacts on these facilities are being taken into account in the building process.  The Washington Post reported last week that if sea levels were to rise 5 or 6 feet, which is within the realm of possibility, numerous arenas and sports facilities in the United States would likely experience flooding including “TD Garden in Boston, Citi Field in New York, MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, Petco Park in San Diego, Del Mar Racetrack in California, and Oracle Park in San Francisco” with huge economic consequences.

Why This Matters: Because stadiums and arenas are so expensive and so iconic — think Fenway Park or Yankee Stadium — the builders have to confront today the question of climate impacts such as sea-level rise and extreme heat projected well into the future.  These problems are not just for Qatar and the 2022 World Cup.  They are also top of mind considerations for new stadiums being developed in places like Oakland, where the Athletics are planning a new waterfront ballpark, and Miami, where Major League Soccer expansion team Inter Miami FC is hoping to build a 25,000-seat stadium near the airport. Billions of dollars are at stake — and it’s even more complicated than just money.  Fortifying a stadium against rising waters might be good for the ballpark and its fans, but it could cause water issues for surrounding areas by pushing water their way. 

Oakland’s Planned Waterfront BallPark 

Oakland is planning a new stadium on the site of a former shipping terminal — 55 acres of waterfront property alongside an estuary.  It is slated for a neighborhood that the team hopes it can help to transform with the ballpark “serving as a cornerstone” for the development of new housing and businesses.

  • The City of Oakland is projecting as much as 17 inches of sea-level rise by 2050 and as much as six feet by the end of the century.
  • They are lifting the stadium foundation up four feet in some areas and siting the new stadium 10 feet above sea level.
  • It will be set back at least 100 feet from the water, “which gives designers a malleable band of land with which to work.”
  • As waters rise, the owners believe that the “land can be molded to include berms, terraces, steps and even sea walls that can divert or block water and protect the surrounding area.”

To Go Deeper:  We recommend the entire Post story — read it here — it is worth your time, sports fans.

And last but not least, Let’s Gooooooo Nationals!  Good luck in Houston tomorrow night – we’ll be rooting for another curly W!

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