Creating Communities: Thirty years of sports-led regeneration

As we prepare for another year at the MIPIM real estate conference in Cannes, Populous can reflect on 30 years of sports- and entertainment-led regeneration, all over the world. Stadia and arenas have long had the ability to have a positive effect on communities, leading to lasting economic and social change. From Oriole Park at Camden Yards to the recently unveiled plans for the Shipyards area in Jacksonville, Florida, regeneration is now one of the key influencing factors behind the creation and design of global sports and entertainment venues, re-energising local communities.

In 1992 the Baltimore Orioles challenged Populous to create a new facility in a unique urban environment at Camden Yards in downtown Baltimore; designing a baseball-specific stadium, while honouring an important historic area. One of the most important cultural features of the area was the old B&O Warehouse in the outfield. This turn-of-the-century building was, along with Eutaw Street, integrated into the design, creating one of the main entry points to the ballpark during games, and functioning as a public plaza when baseball is not in session.

The year that Oriole Park at Camden Yards opened, spending in downtown Baltimore increased 260 percent, with the stadium’s presence continuing to make a significant economic impact to the area today. In the following decades, we have continued to use our expertise in masterplanning and urbanism to lead the regeneration of areas of all shapes and sizes. While the match day experience is a crucial element in stadium design, stadia and arenas can also act as catalysts for vibrancy, diversity and redevelopment within cities.

London is a leading example of the catalytic effect that sports and entertainment buildings can have on large scale urban regeneration, and Populous have played an important part in some of the largest sports-led development projects in the city’s history, across many sports and event types. Of course, as the UK’s most popular sport, football plays a leading role in this. One of the city’s most successful football clubs, Arsenal F.C., recognised that while the iconic Highbury Stadium had been a fixture of the club’s identity for over 90 years, a new stadium was required for the future growth of the club and the associated increase in match day revenues to cement their position as one of Europe’s top clubs. The widespread urban regeneration that has come about thanks to the Emirates Stadium and wider masterplan – including the provision of 2000 new homes, more than half of which are affordable homes – has also been recognized with many awards. The new Emirates Stadium was completed in 2006, and Arsenal’s improved financial position has been applauded by UEFA as the defining model for other clubs to follow in meeting the requirements of the UEFA Financial Fair Play initiative.

Of course, this regeneration has not been limited to top tier football. No project has had more global reach and influence on the city than London 2012 – the Olympic Games fast-tracked decades of urban development in London into just ten years, as well as providing the city’s largest new park for over a century. The area’s economic capability and social legacy are currently being radically improved through the provision of new housing, schools, shops, sports facilities and employment. With sustainable legacy in mind, work is now well under way to complete the stadium transformation, which will see the Olympic Stadium being used as a home for international athletics, as well as being the new home for the EPL’s West Ham United Football Club and the host stadium of matches in this year’s Rugby World Cup. The Masterplan takes into account the multiple uses of the stadium and park; from a football crowd of tens of thousands one day, to families and visitors the next, the stadium will function in different modes at different times.

At Populous, we are always looking to the future. Together with Shad Khan, owner of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars, Populous recently unveiled this video to showcase their vision for a mixed-use redevelopment of the historic Shipyards district in Jacksonville, Florida.

The district is seen as a monumental opportunity to connect the city’s anchor buildings and create a compelling framework for mixed-use development that will unite, engage and activate the city. Complete with space to live, work, stay and play, the initial conceptual designs create a fantastic opportunity for the Jacksonville area, and the next generation of residents and visitors alike.

Populous stadia and arenas quickly become part of the everyday character of a city and bring visitors from all around the world. If you are in MIPIM this year, please do come and say hello to us in the London Stand. If you would like to arrange an appointment at the event, please email

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