New York Mets owner Steve Cohen goes big. He’s always gone big since he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania some 45 years ago, acquiring a job on Wall Street at Gruntal & Co., and earning a profit of $8,000 on his first day.
So, it shouldn’t be a surprise that he paid a record $2.4 billion to buy this MLB team from the Wilpon family back in 2020. A trade for Francisco Lindor while acquiring future Hall of Fame pitchers Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander pointed to Cohen going big rather early in his tenure as the Mets’ owner.
New York’s on-field product this past season aside, Cohen is still going big. That included recently introducing a whopping $8 billion project outside of the Mets’ home of Citi Field that will end up turning into an trendsetting entertainment facility.
The investment includes transforming 50 acres of parking lots into a sports and entertainment park.
“It’s time the world’s greatest city got the sports and entertainment park it deserves,” Cohen said in the announcement. “When I bought this team, fans and the community kept saying we needed to do better. Metropolitan Park delivers on the promise of a shared space that people will not only want to come to and enjoy, but can be truly proud of.”
Longtime Mets fans will agree that a project similar to this was needed to an extent. There are very few restaurants, bars and other entertainment facilities currently surrounding Citi Field. As one of the five richest owners in professional sports ($19.8 billion), Cohen has taken it upon himself to transform this area of the five boroughs and make it revolutionary.
So, he thought.
Back in 2016, construction began for Los Angeles Stadium at Hollywood Park. It would end up becoming the home of the NFL’s Chargers and Rams. Having opened in September of 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, this project included 298 acres and ended up costing roughly $6 billion to build.
Within just a couple years, the NFL would host its annual Super Bowl at the site. This is still seen as the creme dela creme of sports complexes in North America. That includes winning “Stadium of the Year” in StadiumDB’s Jury Award and “Outstanding Architectural Engineering Project” of 2021 by the American Society of Civil Engineers.
These are two instances of stadium and entertainment projects taking on new meaning in the modern sports business world. But they are not alone.
Speaking of going big, Oak View Group CEO Tim Leiweke noted back in June that his group is budgeting for a $10 billion entertainment district that would house an NBA expansion team. Overkill? Perhaps. Las Vegas defined? Definitely.
Starting with SoFi Stadium and continuing in New York and Sin City, this could end up becoming the norm around the sports world. How do these three venues stack up? What are included in them? What does it mean for the future? We have you covered here.
SoFi Stadium set the standard for future projects
Back in 2005, ground broke on a new Dallas Cowboys stadium in Texas. It was seen as a modern marvel. The first new-age sports venue in North America. Once it opened in time for the 2009 season, the estimated cost had risen from $650 million to $1.3 billion, making the venue one of the most expensive in Northern American sports history.
It was a modern Mecca. North of 342 executive suites. A capacity that expanded to 105,000. A 58-yard wide scoreboard. Modern amenities such as exclusive seating. Owner Jerry Jones — as he has always done — went big.
Fast forward just over a decade when SoFi Stadium opened with the COVID-19 pandemic as a backdrop, and “Jerry’s World” seemed like something out of a foregone time in America’s past. An era when our parents walked to school barefoot 10 miles in the snow. When engines were in the front of cars. And when entertainment was playing Parcheesi in the backyard with boxed wine.
Including surrounding developments, the cost of constructing the venue reached upwards of $6 billion. It included 260 executive suites and stood on a complex of 298 acres. It includes a casino and a master-planned surrounding neighborhood with apartments, restaurants, bars and shopping facilities.
Since its opening, SoFi Stadium has hosted concerts for the likes of Taylor Swift, BTS, Justin Bieber and Paul McCartney, among others.
Unlike pre-modern iterations of entertainment venues like “Day on the Green” at Angel Stadium in Southern California or The Beatles performance at the now-defunct Candlestick Park in San Francisco, these concerts have come with the bells and whistles of modern-day conveniences listed above.
Cowboys stadium might have started the process of modernizing and combining sports and entertainment, but SoFi Stadium brought it to new heights. It hosted Super Bowl LVI in February of 2022 and the College Football Playoff National Championship Game this past January. SoFi will be home to the 2026 FIFA World Cup as well as the 2028 Summer Olympics.
Citi Field could become the ‘modern’ Camden Yards
Back to Steve Cohen and the New York Mets. This planned project outside of Citi Field is going to be like no other before it in North American entertainment history. That’s not hyperbole.
- 20 acres of public park space
- Bars and restaurants
- Live music venue
- Hotel towers
- Tailgate park
- Conference spaces
- Food hall and community space
- Athletic fields
- Train station
An argument could be made that a millionaire would be able to live on this facility without wanting for anything.
The space that this will be built on is currently a mere parking lot. That’s been the case since the 1937 World’s Fair was held adjacent to the current location of Citi Field.
According to those who are involved in what is dubbed Metropolitan Park, the new project will bring in thousands of permanent union jobs and preferential hiring for locals. It’s not just a venue. It’s a broader plan to lift up the local community. It will change the dynamics of the surrounding areas.
“Hard Rock at Metropolitan Park will be rooted in the spirit of music while embracing the unique culture and character of Queens,” Chairman of Hard Rock International Jim Allen said. “Metropolitan Park captures the energy and vision of bringing people together for memorable shared experiences that exemplifies the company’s mottos to Love All Serve All, All is One, Save Time to Be Kind and Save the Planet. We’re excited to bring our unique brand of world class entertainment to Queens.”
When Oriole Park at Camden Yards opened back in 1992, it represented this forward-thinking mentality that steered away from baseball stadiums of the past. That is to say, erecting venues which had no discernible attributes for cities outside of the stadiums themselves.
Eutaw Street became part of the fan experience outside of Camden Yards with fans taking in restaurants, bars and shopping before/after games. We’ve seen similar venues erected for MLB teams since such as PNC Park (Pittsburgh Pirates), Petco Park (San Diego Padres) and Oracle Park (San Francisco Giants).
More than three decades after Camden Yards opened up, it might seem like a relic of the past. But it began the revolution towards what Cohen and the Mets are planning outside of Citi Field.
As with everything, so goes Las Vegas
The current home of the NHL’s Las Vegas Golden Knights, T-Mobile Arena, opened back in 2016 on the heart of the Las Vegas Strip. The idea was to entice a professional sports team to Sin City for the first time and bring another entertainment venue to Southern Nevada.
In addition to the venue being a smashing success for the Knights and their fans, we’ve seen multiple UFC championship bouts fought inside T-Mobile Arena. It has the modern conveniences and all of the bells/whistles you look for in a venue today.
With the NBA soon looking to expand to Las Vegas, it made perfect sense for T-Mobile to host a professional basketball team. It’s centrally located. Public transportation is not a problem. Ride sharing to nearby casinos is no problem. Does Las Vegas need yet another venue after Allegiant Stadium opened for the NFL’s Raiders in 2020 and with the new talk of the town, the Sphere, doing its thing?
Heck, the MLB’s Oakland Athletics are planning to build a billion-dollar baseball stadium at the current site of The Tropicana right off the strip.
So, when Oak View Group CEO Tim Leiweke indicated that his company is budgeting for a $10 billion entertainment district with an arena to host an NBA expansion team, it seemed to be a bit of overkill.
“We’re doing something extraordinary and if we get to the finish line, we will build the largest development in the history of Las Vegas,” Leiweke said.
The. Largest. Development. In. The. History. Of. Las. Vegas. Let that sink in for a second. The entertainment capital of the world, and we’re talking about a $10 billion project.
But there’s certainly reasoning to this madness. Everyone wants to get a piece of the Las Vegas pie right now. Some, including Oakland A’s owner John Fisher, might not be deserving of it. But when you’re ready to put up capital and show ingenuity in this modern climate, things will happen.
NBA superstar LeBron James is among those interested in investing in an expansion team in Southern Nevada. He would bring both viability and a sense of actual community involvement to the project. Much like they have done throughout his NBA career, others will follow King James down this path.
Whether the venue actually takes hold moving forward remains to be seen. Local politics in Nevada will play a role in the final decision-making process, much like it will with the Citi Field project clear across the country in New York City. But one thing is clear. A vision for the future has been laid down in Vegas and the Big Apple. Other will follow.
How the future of stadium projects will be impacted
Right across the street from SoFi Stadium in Inglewood sits a plot of land that is currently being erected on. It’s going to be the new home of the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers with owner Steve Ballmer spearheading the efforts.
It really is an extension of the Hollywood Park concept across the street, and will act as it moving forward. Part of the modernization we covered above.
“When I think about this product – our new building – in a way, I do liken it to the way Apple thought about the phone,” Ballmer said in announcing the new venue, via CNBC. “They didn’t try to design the cheapest phone. They didn’t go in saying, ‘Let’s build a cheap product because it might sell a higher volume at a lower price.’ They came in with a premium approach. They came in thinking of new ways to do things. That’s what we’re doing here. This is a premium building, and our fans aren’t going to suffer for that.”
The foundation had been laid years back. But Ballmer was taking his business approach to making something of his own. It’s no different than when he ran Microsoft as its CEO. A business model with eyes on the future and a community approach. Sound familiar?
In the NFL, the Buffalo Bills, Chicago Bears and Tennessee Titans all have plans to build new stadiums. Buffalo’s plan has come to fruition with groundbreaking already taking place in preparation for a 2026 opening.
The Oakland Athletics’ plan to relocate to Las Vegas in time for the 2028 season is all but a foregone conclusion at this point with MLB set to approve the move. Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Rays also have plans to erect a new stadium in their current city.
The NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder will open a new arena in time for the 2029 season. The Philadelphia 76ers are planning a massive new project dubbed 76 Place at Market East, which is slated to open in 2031.
How are these venues going to look? What have we learned in the past that will be utilized to make them the best of the best? A lot of factors will come into play.
But as we’re seeing with Steve Cohen and the New York Mets as well as Las Vegas out west, it’s go big or go home. That’ll be the name of the game moving forward. Tank it to the bank. Literally.