On the subject of a potential downtown San Diego East Village NFL stadium, some proponents have asserted that Indianapolis’s downtown Lucas Oil Stadium was a catalyst for redevelopment and revitalization. I recalled that Walter Scott Chambers III, urban planning wonk and owner of the blog Great Streets San Diego, had moved to Indianapolis. Ironically, his last article in that wonderful but now-dormant blog, was entitled 5 Key Indicators That Your City Is Not A World Class City. Number 4 of the 5 was “It has a Civic Center, a Sports Multi-Complex, an Arts District, an Entertainment District (any or all of the these).” Anyway, I reached out to him by email to see what he thought of the use of Lucas Oil Stadium as a shining example of an NFL stadium catalyst for downtown revitalization (nevermind that East Village is already “revitalizing” at boom-times speed without another stadium). Here’s what Walt said, sans the niceties at the beginning and the end of his email:
Although I’m no expert on Indianapolis, I believe that the comparison between Indy and San Diego is flawed. Here are a few reasons why.
Indianapolis first built a stadium in its Downtown (The RCA Dome) in 1984. At that time, Indianapolis was in serious decline and decay. What Horton Plaza did for downtown San Diego, the RCA Dome did for downtown Indianapolis. It really spurred development. The RCA Dome was also connected to the existing Convention Center, and doubled as a convention space — what you-all are now calling a Convadium.
A little more history: Back in the 1970’s Indianapolis set out with a vision and master plan to become “America’s Sports City”. That purposeful identity and plan has influenced many of the decisions about the City – and for the most part has been very successful.
The RCA Dome was replaced with Lucas Oil Stadium (across the street). In place of the RCA Dome, the Convention Center was expanded. Also in the near area is the Basketball Fieldhouse (Pacers), the minor league baseball stadium (Indians). Across the River is the Natatorium, and the Professional Soccer League Stadium (Indy 11). The area is also home to the National Headquarters of the NCAA.
So you can see the sports theme here.
It’s really only been the last 10 years that Indianapolis development has taken off. I attribute much of the development to the completion of the Indianapolis Cultural Trail. Almost all new development in downtown has been in the proximity of the Cultural Trail.
And you are correct. While the Northeast, Northwest, and Southeast parts of downtown have recently seen explosions in development, the Southwest area where the Stadium(s) is has yet to take off … with the exception of a few hotels.
One great feature downtown is Georgia Street – a shared space street that connects the Convention Center, the Fieldhouse, The Football Stadium, and the Cultural Trail. It has been hugely successful and should be a model for shared space streets around the nation.
The difference between Indianapolis and San Diego for downtown stadiums?
1) San Diego’s East village is already in the middle of a development boom. Instead of spurring development, a stadium in East Village would actually hinder it. Indianapolis’ stadium was built 30 years ago at a time when there was no development — or even hope for any.
2) San Diego has no vision that justifies a Stadium downtown. The only reason for a Stadium in DTSD is that Spanos wants it. That’s not a vision for SD. Indy’s Stadium is in keeping with it’s vision and masterplan as a Sports City.
3) The Colts are a great, winning team. (had to rub that in).
The best use of that site in East Village (IMHO) is a new, Grand Central Station transit hub that would connect AmTrak, Light Rail, BRT, buses, the waterfront(?) and eventually HSR — connecting downtown to Mexico, and all points east and north. Half the infrastructure is already there … lacking is a vision and visionary leaders that see San Diego as more than a sleepy suburb forever attached by umbilical cord to its cars.
I hadn’t told Walt of our innovation district vision but such a transit hub would probably complement it nicely – at least a lot more than an NFL stadium that was dormant 350 days of the year.
- Lucas Oil Stadium, susi.bsu, photo by Shawna Pierson, Creative Commons Lic. 2.0 attribution
- Lucas Oil Stadium, John D.Creative, Commons Lic. 2.0 attribution
- Indianapolis Cultural Trail, Photo Eric Fischer, Creative Commons 2.0 Attribution
- Indianapolis Cultural Trail, photo by sciondriver Follow, Cabin Fever, Creative Commons attribution, non-commercial, share alike