Sports Spark a Flurry of Entertainment Districts

By Kelsey Ogletree, February 1, 2018

Welcome to Avenida Houston, one of the latest entertainment district to crop up against the country. You’ll find night clubs and pit barbecue, art walks and kinetic sculptures, and acrobatic performances and live music. Wait, did you think you were here for a sports event? Think again.

This new Houston development marks the latest major infrastructure investment designed to complement sports arenas and stadiums. All the activities might just distract you from the fact that Minute Maid Park (MLB’s Astros), BBVA Compass Stadium (MLS’ Dynamo) and NRG Stadium (NFL’s Texans) are all within walking distance or a short light rail ride away. The Avenida campus also includes the George R. Brown Convention Center, Discovery Green Park, a Marriott and a Hilton.

The idea is to draw people in for an experience that’s more than just a game, and they might just stay awhile—and spend more dollars.

Among the first cities to adopt this trend was Los Angeles. In 2007, it completed its L.A. LIVE development, complete with the 7,000-seat Microsoft Theater; massive open-air spaces for events; several huge big-brand hotels; and a ton of dining, entertainment and retail options. In the middle of it all? Staples Center, home to the L.A. Kings, Lakers, Clippers and Sparks.

Other cities have followed suit: Take the 223-acre, $1 billion Westgate Entertainment District, built around Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona (home to NHL’s Arizona Coyotes), or the 50-block District Detroit, which debuted in the Motor City in late 2016 around Comerica Park, Ford Field and the Little Caesars Arena.

Most recently, a new Omni opened late last year to more or less complete The Battery, an entertainment surrounding SunTrust Park, the new home of the Atlanta Braves. Omni Hotel at The Battery Atlanta is the Braves’ official stadium. The Battery also includes the Coca-Cola Roxy music venue, shopping, dining and office space.

After the Chicago Cubs won the World Series last year, team owner Tom Ricketts and family invested serious cash in improving the area around Wrigley Field. The result? The Park at Wrigley (shown above), an open-air green plaza that hosts farmers markets, free movie nights and events, plus a luxury hotel across the street and much more developments in the works.

As for Avenida’s success—as they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

“We’ve had no less than five cities come check it out to see how we did it, not only physically, but funding-, structure- and management-wise,” says John Solis, vice president of convention sales and services at Greater Houston CVB. “Success attracts a lot of attention, whether it’s from those you plan on it from or not.”

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