Raleigh Stadium/Arena/Sports Discussions


To add, I’m still a proponent of a downtown stadium if done right. I think if you incorporate housing and offices in the whole complex, and rely on mass transit for ingress/egress, it can work.

If you look at Fenway and Wrigley, they’re embedded within their neighborhoods, not plopped out by an interstate with parking lots everywhere. And, I think if you polled most MLB fans, they’d tell you those parks have the best fan experience. I mean, Wrigleyville is one of the most sought-after neighborhoods in Chicago!

To get to their games, people walk, ride pedicabs, take cabs/ride share, take the el, the green line, etc. I think if you do it right, you can actually enhance the downtown fabric and increase property values around a downtown stadium.


This is the Gov. Jim Hunt Horse Complex. According to its website, it is both “nationally acclaimed” and “the busiest equine facility in North Carolina and Virginia.”

I’m operating under the assumption that there would be some pretty significant opposition to knocking it down to build a baseball stadium.


Yah, that location isn’t going to be developed.


Completely agree with your point about how the stadium integrates with the city around it. I recently went to the Rockies Stadium. After the game 1000s of attendees walked across the street to the bars restaurants in LOwer DOwntown (LoDo) Denver. Light rail was a few blocks away, ubers/lyfts where everywhere. Parking seemed sparse in the immediate area but I was on foot.


Exactly! Seems like many on this board are in favor of moving away from car-centric development. Now, I’m not under the illusion that you could build an MLB stadium without any parking at all, but I don’t think you need to have these massive expanses of parking lots like you see around Philadelphia’s, Kansas City’s, Oakland’s, Anaheim’s, and LA’s stadiums.

IMO, a great setup would have dedicated access points for bus, ride share, rail, and foot traffic for ingress/egress. And of course, some parking…maybe a deck or two like we see in DT Durham.


Ok friends, inspired by the Connections 81.2 design charrette, I’ve come up with my idea for the Central Prison site: a proposed MLB stadium entertainment district that connects the Warehouse District, Glenwood South, Pullen Park, and Dix Park.

  • Like Wrigley Field and Fenway Park, the stadium would be nestled within the existing city fabric and would rely heavily on alternative (non-car) methods for ingress/egress
  • Mass transit improvements are anticipated in the Triangle (BRT, commuter rail), and these would all be leveraged with this plan. Foot traffic from downtown Raleigh would also be a realized goal
  • First, the existing Mountford Ave bridge would be extended to meet a Morgan St “south” extension, which would connect to Western Blvd. To mitigate traffic through Boylan Heights, Mountford would be restricted to one-way west-bound bus traffic serving the park
  • RUSBus shuttle option 1 would take riders from RUSBus down through the future West St tunnel, west on Cabarrus, Dupont, and Mountford, north on a new Morgan St extension bridge, and east on Morgan back toward RUSBus
  • RUSBus shuttle option 2 would take riders from RUSBus east on Martin St, south on Dawson, west on Western, north on the new Morgan extension, and east on Morgan back toward RUSBus
  • Because of existing RR infrastructure and anticipated SEHSR tracks, the Boylan Wye will probably always be a development dead zone in DTR. Older Raleighites may remember the Martin St Viaduct that connected DTR with Boylan via an elevated roadway
  • This idea proposes an elevated greenway (think NYC’s High Line) in this area. This would serve to finally connect Glenwood South to the Warehouse District, RUSBus, the new ballpark, and Dix Park
  • Raleigh has plans for an elevated walkway connecting Union Station to the planned bus facility (RUSBus). This, ahem, “Wye Line” would be an extension of that, and would provide needed pedestrian connections to different city districts
  • The Wye Line would serve people traveling by foot, bike, or pedicab to and from the ballpark district, Pullen Park, and Dix Park
  • Additionally, commuter rail passengers arriving at Union Station would be able to use the Wye Line to access these districts
  • Rideshare corrals would be constructed around the ballpark to enable this form of ingress/egress
  • In order to mitigate game traffic, on-site parking decks would be limited to permit holders or hotel guests
  • As for the stadium itself, it would be oriented—as most baseball stadiums are—with home plate in the SW corner. This keeps the setting sun behind the grandstands and situates Raleigh’s skyline as the outfield backdrop
  • The entire concept is designed to “mesh” into the existing neighborhood, utilize alternative modes of transportation, extend Raleigh’s greenway network, and blend into surrounding parks with an abundance of green spaces


Holy cow. Bravo to you for thinking this all out. I love it!


Very impressive! Thank you for truly thinking outside the box :package: and pitching an idea that should be given true consideration by the city. Imho :blush:


So I posted this same question in reply to a tweet on the same topic, but my question is, is this plan based on A) the putative team paying market rate prices for the real estate, or B) the state just handing the most prime real estate in town over to a privately owned business at a drastically reduced cost?

Because I promise you A is most definitely never happening. Baseball teams don’t even like paying for stadiums in the first place, much less buying the priciest real estate in town at market rates. And there is absolutely, positively, unequivocally no good reason why the state should hand over what is quite literally the single most prime redevelopment opportunity in the whole state of North Carolina at cut-rate prices to a privately owned business. That would be a horrifically stupid thing to do, and I say this as someone who is a huge baseball fan and is literally typing this reply in the down time while the Brewers deal with an injury to their starting pitcher.

Baseball stadiums, whether publicly funded (usually) or privately funded (rarely) pretty much always get built on land on that is cheap because it’s not especially desirable. Baseball stadiums, as a rule, do not get built on crown jewel real estate, nor should they.


Anyhoo, since I’m here anyway posting in the sports discussion thread, the big news in Major League Soccer today is that Austin is going to get a new team and Columbus is going to keep their existing one. The upshot is that the already long odds of Raleigh getting an MLS team anytime soon just got substantially longer.


If you only look at how transit and greenways connect to what you’re suggesting, then yeah, I think this looks like a pretty decent idea. (…though this makes the huge assumption that you can get the proper real estate development off the ground, and that you’d get the environmental clearances and Norfolk Southern’s holy sacred graces to build that “wye line”)

But there’s one thing I have to disagree with you about:

The entire concept is designed to “mesh” into the existing neighborhood […] and blend into surrounding parks […]

I don’t think this plan accomplishes that.

Your idea integrates transit and other initiatives around downtown/RUS well, and it would definitely make the area between NC State and downtown feel more lively. Despite that, though, I can’t get rid of the picture in my head that this makes the stadium area isolate itself in the neighborhood and stick out like a sore thumb. For example…

  • Hotel/retail facing Western Blvd - this row of buildings could easily “feel” like a wall to a castle populated by the people who can afford that hotel/apartment. To make this worse, the Rocky Branch Creek would easily look like a moat, and the large dips in terrain and Western Blvd. would make it even more intimidating for people in Dix Park to cross here unless additional infrastructure changes are made. …and I’m sure we all know just how cooperative the NCDoT can be.

  • the Rideshare Egress - maybe it’s just the particular layout of the road and trees, but it still looks more like that row of asphalt/greenery is a straight, horizontal barrier (that’s informed by the NS rail) that serves as a barricade against Boylan Heights.

  • Northern parking garages - same issue here; I’m concerned that it would look like a wall between Morgan St. and the redeveloped area. (Yeah there’s a heavily used, active railway already accomplishing that job, but wouldn’t the parking decks just make that worse?)

All in all, I think you did a good job building the right connections… but I’m not exactly seeing this as a welcome space that’s helpful for the community; it looks like a nicely-built development opportunity and transit midpoint that’s built at the cost of nearby residents.

EDIT: maybe this is another way to reach the same conclusion that you made, @daviddonovan?

Baseball stadiums, [regardless of how they were funded,] pretty much always get built on land on that is cheap because it’s not especially desirable. Baseball stadiums, as a rule, do not get built on crown jewel real estate, nor should they.

…from my perspective, because there’s better ways to enrich downtown Raleigh using such a prime piece of real estate than a baseball stadium.


@daviddonovan @keita Thanks for yall’s comments! We might not ever come to an exact agreement on the topic, and that’s cool! It’s fun to talk about, and I’m glad this helps keep the conversation going!

To respond to a few of your points…

  • AIA’s design charrette was a forward-thinking exercise with the idea that something would one day replace Central Prison. This was just my idea for that. What are your dreams for that lot? Of course I don’t think the state would just hand over the property, but if the land is too valuable for anyone to develop it, then what else will it ever be besides a prison? Are any of the other ideas from the charrette feasible? What do you think should be here?
  • As for the idea that baseball stadiums never get built on prime real estate, I can think of several MLB parks that were built on extremely valuable downtown lots and are thriving because of it (Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Phoenix, Cincinnati, Cleveland, St. Louis, San Diego, Denver, just to name a few).
  • I agree, @keita that those buildings fronting Western do create somewhat of a barrier. The hotel/retail/restaurant idea, for one, was part of the thought to help make the concept more profitable, add needed hotel rooms to DTR, and capitalize on its proximity to Dix. As for the other aspects that you feel created barriers (rideshare lanes, northern parking decks), these were strategically placed in line with barriers which already exist (the railroads) and aren’t going anywhere. Short of removing the railroads, I don’t know how one would completely eliminate the barriers to the surrounding neighborhoods.

What if–and it’s a HUGE what if–a stadium could be designed to house office and residential suites as part of the building itself (the buildings labeled “S”)? This would be a huge departure from traditional ballpark design–one that makes them kind of a dead zone when games aren’t being played. Companies/residents pay premium prices for great locations and great views, right? Well, I would consider a glistening baseball field/stadium with a skyline backdrop to be a “view,” and maybe that’s a way to help finance the project (pre-leasing office/residential space around the stadium with field and DT views)? I’m imagining some sort of mash-up of North Hills and a ballpark–a place where people live and work, eat and drink, shop, etc. and pay a premium for it because of something special that’s there and nowhere else in town. I may be in the minority, but I’d pay a premium for that. Tenants of this bustling development wouldn’t necessarily be locked in place by the traffic that ball games generate. DTR and RUSBus are “walkably” close, rideshare would be an option, maybe a dedicated parking deck just for permitted residents? Who knows?

Again, fun to think about and talk about!!


Well I’d say a central location is best despite the sprawling demographics and the fact that a small minority of potential fans would rather not “trudge” into downtown is likely far outweighed by people who prefer to; it adds the the experience. Also - I’m not splitting hairs by saying that PNC is not downtown. It’s essentially in a suburban environment. The biggest mistake the Canes made was not building their stadium downtown.


The Canes didn’t build it… that’s not the sequence of events. The planning for the arena goes back to the early 1980s, and the primary tenant was NC State for basketball. At that point, the franchise that became the Hurricanes was still in Hartford, Conn. NC State absolutely refused to put a new arena downtown. That’s how the current site came to be chosen… it was NC State’s idea. The original design of the arena had already been completed as a basketball facility when the Canes chose to relocate here from Hartford. The design of the arena had to be changed to accommodate an NHL team, but the site remained as-is. The owner of the Canes moved the team here because there was an arena in the works that he could piggyback onto. No way would he have put out the money for a separate arena, nor at that point was city or state government about to build a second arena. Nor would NC State reconsider its opposition to downtown. So there you have it. Technically the arena is owned by a public authority created by the General Assembly. The relationship with the Hurricanes is contractual.

Remember, the team draws from Chapel Hill, Durham, Morrisville, Apex, etc. It’s no coincidence that the team was not named the Raleigh Hurricanes.


NC State didn’t want the area downtown because they already owned the land where it is saving them a big chunk of change.


So because this is a Raleigh discussion group and not a sports discussion group I’m going to divide this reply into two posts, this one dealing with some of the cities posited as examples of ballparks built on prime real estate. I’ll focus on Denver because it’s a very useful example, touch on the others, and then zero in on the lessons that would be applicable to Raleigh.

TLDR: Absolutely none of those ballparks were built on land that was prime real estate at the time the stadium was built.

Coors Field is in the LoDo section of Denver, which is north of the central business district, next to a railroad spaghetti junction, and was traditionally the warehouse district. By the 1980s, it had become essentially a skid row. Very few people lived there, and it was a place where locals generally wouldn’t want to be after dark. When Colorado got the Rockies in 1993, it had just started to show signs of life. Wynkoop Brewing opened in 1988, and like in a lot of places the gentrifying started with an arts and nightlife scene moving into the area to take advantage of ultra-low rents. Coors Field helped accelerate that renaissance, and the renovation of Union Station starting in 2012 was another big step forward. I realize that if you go there now, it looks like this amazing urban neighborhood, but that was most definitely not the case in 1993. Back then, it was probably the cheapest possible place they could have built the stadium.

So did Coors Field cause the revitalization of the neighborhood? That’s a debatable question. It was already just starting to get going, and over the last decade Denver has boomed so much that redevelopment is happening all over. Most likely, Coors Field helped attract development to LoDo that otherwise would have happened in other parts of Denver. (Nationals Park in Washington is an even more extreme example of this.)

Most of those other cities have similar stories. PNC Park was built on the north side of the Allegheny River, specifically because land was cheaper there. That’s actually why it has such a breathtaking vista of the central business district across the river. AT&T Park, which is the only modern ballpark built largely with private funding, has those great views of the Bay, but land there was actually cheaper because it was a relatively small footprint along the shore on the fringes of what was, at the time, a still-developing South Market neighborhood. Target Field is in a really cool location, at the intersection of a lot of transportation–there’s a commuter rail stop, the terminus of the light rail line, a bus station and a highway. But it’s actually separated from downtown proper by a massive interstate, and to get there by foot from downtown you have to cross a long pedestrian bridge over the freeway. It’s actually a great site for a stadium, but it wasn’t highly sought after land. Petco Park, again, is on the edge of town, near a railroad spaghetti junction, and was explicitly the centerpiece of a revitalization plan for the area. That famous Western Metal Supply Co. Building that was built into the stadium had been vacant for decades before the stadium was built. Busch Stadium in St. Louis is built in the parking lot of the old stadium, which was also conceived explicitly as an urban revival project in its day. Cincinnati is maybe the closest to being like what you’re describing, since it is very close to the CBD, but again, it’s on the “wrong” side of I-71.

The closest thing Raleigh would have to a site like these examples cited above is probably the site of the old Cargill plant that is going to be redeveloped soon. And that would be a really great site for a ballpark, from the perspective of a baseball team. (On top of everything else, the permanent lack of a north-south artery to convey traffic to the current Central Prison site actually makes it a suboptimal site for a baseball stadium.) But there are so, so few sites like that in Raleigh that a stadium proposal would face tons of competition for that land, which developers are practically salivating over.

Looking out a little further long-term, the Penmarc area would have some of the same characteristics as some of the successful examples cited above. Sure, it feels out-of-the-way now, but it won’t in a decade or so. Even longer term, the NCCIW site could have promise. But trying to build a baseball stadium on land that is already a prime candidate for redevelopment is not going to be a viable option because the economics of it simply don’t work. You’ve got to look for land that’s not currently sought after and develop into a destination site. And right now, there are very few places like that in Raleigh, and a lot of competition for the few that do exist.


The second part of my reply is about the Central Prison site specifically. I most definitely did not say that the land was too valuable for “anyone” to develop it, which is actually kind of an oxymoron. I merely said that the land was too expensive for a baseball team to economically develop it to build a baseball stadium, which is a significant difference.

As far as what I think should go there in place of a prison, I don’t really have any set-in-stone ideas. What I would really like is for the state to begin the planning process of decommissioning it and begin soliciting ideas for what could go there from experienced developers with the money to develop it. I think those folks would have some really good ideas about what could go there (there are some challenges that mean that certain potential land uses would probably not be feasible), and it’s quite likely that the ideas that they would come up with would be a lot better than anything I could dream up. (I attended some of the Connections 81.2 events as well, and while some of the ideas were really inspiring, some of them also seemed a little impractical.) My best guess is that housing would be a significant part of any mix, but that’s just a guess.

Also, not to keep banging this drum, but the answer would largely depend on whether the Northfolk Southern railroad running through that land could also be rerouted, which would really open up the range of possibilities for it.


What you said is true of an earlier generation of ballparks, which based on your posts you might already know. Fenway, Forbes Field (Pittsburgh), Griffith Stadium (DC), Braves Field (Boston), Crosley Field (Cincinnati) and others were all built out on the periphery.


TLDR: Absolutely none of those ballparks were built on land that was prime real estate at the time the stadium was built.

I can concede some of those examples (i.e. Denver) as urban lots that were less desirable at the time; that’s actually why I didn’t mention urban parks in Houston, Seattle, Detroit, Baltimore, etc. They were built in urban areas but weren’t prime real estate at the time (or still aren’t).

However, I just can’t agree that waterfront land in San Francisco, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh (and to a lesser extent San Diego, which isn’t waterfront, but is directly across the street from the pre-existing convention center) wouldn’t have been highly sought-after land for alternative development at the time of their construction.

In the end, it’s really an impossible comparison to argue on either side because Raleigh is just so unique. There are no major interstate arteries running through it, not much old industrial land in the urban core to be redeveloped, no waterfront, etc. etc.

This brings up an interesting paradox about urban sports venues. If the land is highly valuable, it’s too valuable for a stadium. But in many cases, if the land is less desirable, you have people screaming “gentrification” before the ink is dry on the rendering.

I tend to be a proponent of downtown ballparks–not because I’m naïve enough to think they are these huge economic spark plugs for the city (I’ve seen the research)–but because I want people to actually go to the games. I want to see packed stadiums and people excited to be there (and excited to walk to bars/restaurants before and after games). And let’s face it, people are packing the DBAP, not Five County.


So, there’s a couple of things to keep in mind. 1. Minor league sports are a lot different than major league. I think you’re right regarding the Bulls v. Mudcats, but if we’re actually going to get an MLB team attendance depends a lot less where the park is located and more on the size of the fan base. Case in point, smaller markets like Cleveland or Oakland can have good teams but their attendance is lousy, while an ok team like St. Louis is third in overall attendance and a legitimately bad team like San Francisco is fourth overall. 2. Cincy, St Louis and Pitt were all built adjacent to the old stadiums (Riverfront, Busch and Three Rivers) so the land was already set up to accommodate stadium traffic (and they were all basically built on parking lots). This is similar to what happened with both New York teams, Comisky Park back in the early 90s, Comerica Park, Turner Field, and probably others. Also, the land that holds Progressive Field was not nearly as valuable in the mid 1990s as it is today. I would concede that a stadium might get built on valuable real estate if it’s replacing an existing stadium because the land is already suited for a stadium and it’s way easier than finding another location, but I have to agree with David’s point.