Five groups across the Southeast are making serious plays for major football stadium upgrades that collectively total nearly $2 billion. Those groups include four of the Southeast's biggest cities--Atlanta, Miami, Charlotte and Orlando--as well as Duke University, where that school has announced plans for a major expansion of Wallace Wade Stadium.
Currently, the efforts of the cities that are home to National Football League franchises are still in the planning stages, with some appearing to gain some momentum. And Orlando is moving forward with its own ambitious plan to upgrade its Citrus Bowl facility. Here's a run-down of the players:
Miami: Earlier this month, the Miami Dolphins announced plans for $400 million in upgrades to its Sun Life Stadium. According to reports, these improvements--which would include a stadium canopy, a large video screen and more seats--are necessary if Miami wants to host another Super Bowl. While Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has stated the team would foot more than half of the cost, the franchise is facing public skepticism over the project, which apparently is being fueled by negative feelings over the recently completed Miami Marlins ballpark.
Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross talks to the editorial board of the Miami Herald about his team's plans for $400 million in upgrades to Sun Life Stadium. (Youtube video posted by the Miami Herald.)
Atlanta: The plans to build an estimated $1-billion retractable-roof replacement for the Georgia Dome are apparently the furthest along of any of the Southeast's NFL cities. The Georgia World Congress Authority, which developed and operates the current facility, reported earlier this month: "The Atlanta Falcons and GWCCA jointly agreed to extend the evaluation period for Architectural Services until Monday, January 28. Ten responses to the RFQ solicitation were received and additional time is needed to review qualifications and references and to prepare additional program information for finalists."
According to reports, negotiations between the Atlanta Falcons and the city have been continuing for awhile. Hanging over the plans, however, is the low opinion that Georgians apparently have for a new stadium. According to a recent Associated Press report, however, less than a third of Georgians approve of the effort to replace the 21-year-old sports facility. This despite the fact that Falcons owner Arthur Blank has reportedly committed to funding 70 percent of the cost, with the remainder coming from state-issued bonds backed by existing Atlanta hotel taxes, according to the AP report.
Charlotte: City officials in Charlotte, N.C., have given initial approval to the idea of raising the $150 million needed for improvements to the Carolina Panthers stadium by increasing a local restaurant and bar tax by a penny. As might be expected, that increase in taxes is facing pushback, too, according to the Charlotte Observer.
The city of Orlando recently released early architectural renderings of its planned improvements to the Citrus Bowl. The reconstruction, reportedly estimated to cost $200 million, is being viewed as a way to lure a college football national championship game. (Image courtesy the City of Orlando; rendering by HNTB.)
Orlando: While it's not a home for the NFL, the city of Orlando nevertheless has its own big plans for its football facility, known as the Citrus Bowl. And these plans are beginning to become real. The city recently issued early architectural renderings drawn up by HNTB, for a reconstruction valued at a reported $200 million. The needed upgrade was included as part of the city's Venues construction program, which funded construction of a new facility for the Orlando Magic, along with a performing arts center. But when Venues funding lagged due to the economic downturn, the Citrus Bowl renovation lagged as well.
But now the city seems rejuvenated about upgrading the Citrus Bowl, which is roughly 75 years old. And the new plans for a college football playoff system are apparently playing into Orlando's reinvigorated drive. As Steve Hogan, CEO of Florida Citrus Sports, told the Orlando Sentinel: "You can broadcast it across America. Orlando is going to host a national championship."
Duke University: Then there's Duke University, where football coach David Cutcliffe has guided the Blue Devils to an improved standing in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Duke's plans for the expansion includes removal of the track that currently encircles the football field, along with a lowering of the field, extension of the existing stadium bowl, and the addition of a new tower featuring premium seats. The university says it is planning to spend $100 million of athletic facility upgrades.
At this point, all of these plans remain much like a pass from the Mad Bomber--very much up in the air. But one thing is certain, a lot of money is riding on them. Stay tuned.