How sports venues keep the lights on after game day

Listen to experts discuss the benefits and challenges of integrating stadiums into urban neighborhoods

April 02, 2024

Sports venues attract thousands of visitors to nearby entertainment hot spots. But what happens when the stadium lights dim?

The St. Louis Cardinals helped pioneer the concept of creating a mixed-use development around Busch Stadium. The Atlanta Braves and Texas Rangers followed suit with projects near their new baseball parks.

Now Indianapolis developer Ersal Ozdemir is joining the roster to transform an underutilized part of the city’s downtown into a riverfront development anchored by a 20,000-seat hybrid sports stadium for men’s and women’s soccer.

The idea, he says, is to expand downtown and transform that part of the city “to connect the west side of the river to the east side of the river where we are, and then connect our area to the core of the city.”

These types of developments have the potential to generate significant economic revenue, according to a comprehensive study. For example, The Battery Atlanta — a mixed-use development adjacent to the Atlanta Braves’ Truist Park — has had a halo effect on the surrounding area to the tune of $18.9 million per year

Listen to Ozdemir, founder and owner of Keystone Group real estate development and American soccer team Indy Eleven, and Jim Renne, JLL's national director for sports entertainment project development, talk about the challenges and opportunities facing developers and cities trying to create these new community hubs in this episode of Trends & Insights: The Future of Commercial Real Estate.

James Cook: What kinds of things can serve as the central hub for a community. For most mixed-use projects shopping and dining serve as the place where residents and visitors can gather. But some developments are anchored with something different. Sports stadiums have become the anchors of a growing list of mixed-use projects. We're seeing this trend come to life in more and more places. You've got Viking lakes. which is home to the Minnesota Vikings, the battery Atlanta, which is anchored by truest park, where the Atlanta Braves play. And of course, you've got SoFi stadium where the LA Rams play, which anchors the Hollywood Park development.

So, my question is how do you create a true community around these venues? Stadiums are busy on game day, but what do you do about off days?

To find out we're speaking with Ersal Ozdemir. Ersal is owner of Keystone Group and the professional soccer team, Indy 11. He is developing 11 Park in downtown Indianapolis. It will be anchored by 20,000 seats stadium, surrounded by apartments, office, retail, hotel, restaurants, and more.

We'll also talk with Jim Renne. Jim is JLLs national director for sports entertainment, project development.

This is Trends & Insights: The Future of Commercial Real Estate. My name is James Cook, and I am a researcher for JLL.

Ersal Ozdemir: Ersal Ozdemir, I'm the founder and owner of Keystone Group real estate development and Indy 11 professional soccer team in Indianapolis.

Ersal Ozdemir: There are some good examples out there. Battery Park is a good one if you go back in Rome, Coliseum, right? Coliseum is, about 2000 years old. I mean, I can't even remember that. But you know, everything is built around it, right? So they have been building entertainment venues of such sort, in Spain used to be bullfighting to Europe, South America, football, soccer, you know, there are stadiums 100 plus years old, that is still in the heart of the city.

And if you're in London, If you live in Chelsea area, you support Chelsea because you walk to the games. You're on the Fulham team and you support the Fulham area. So, it's been a very common in cities actually developed around these major sports because rest of the world, there were not as much car centric that they wanted to live close to the venue or venues were built where people can actually walk and take public transportation there. But I think as United States suburbanization started in 40, 50, 60 years ago, and people spread out and kind of lost that core of the cities, People realize that it's great to live in suburb, but it can't be suburb of nothing, and you still need a very vibrant core. Back in the day, used to call them village, right? Squares, plazas. Now we're calling downtowns. So, this has been going on for a long time to have something anchored, right? In this case, sports anchor venues to do that. And I think one big difference it does, pandemic made it more clear, A lot of areas like Indianapolis, when convention center was shut down, nobody's hosting conventions. When the government allowed the teams to open the venues back up and a limited capacity, the only things were happening was, sporting venues like Colts and Pacers and in the love and Indies were starting to bring people to downtown. So it made it very clear that the sporting venues are important part of the people wanting to be together, bring people together and create these environments. But in the past, when you have a giant stadium with a big parking nut, people draw here, tailgate, they left, right? And that's great.

But it didn't create neighborhood. It didn't create the self-belonging, didn't really have as much impact in the neighborhood as what we're trying to do and what other cities are trying to do with that. Not only just building a stadium for game days but built around a real true village.

James Cook: Jim, I want to get this big picture historical perspective that I know you've got with your career. where would you trace back kind of the roots of developing, using an arena to sort of catalyze or transform an area, maybe an urban area?

Jim Renne: My name is Jim Renne. I'm the national director for sports entertainment project development for JLL.

Jim Renne: It's kind of interesting really, I'd say probably in the late 90s when there was a large movement to move and reinvest in our downtowns the large markets like LA, San Diego, they offered opportunities for sports venues that come out of the suburbs, literally with stadiums that are surrounded by parking lots, move back downtown and reinvest in sort of call it the fringes, the under invested areas of downtown, which all of a sudden became, catalysts for growth.

 It took some time, but along with that, Urbanism was people wanted to sort of feel like what it was like to be downtown again. People fled downtown for years, right for decades. Now they're coming back.

So that kind of trend happened all through the 2000s into, 2000, let's call it 10, 12, where then there is a sort of the new model sort of developing, which I'm going to use sort of the battery model, which we saw those very well, which is, , creating destinations. In areas that were not part of the downtown fabric.

So, the progression has been interesting. Both are still happening. But it caters to a different market and market segment and the community around it. So, it's always about how do you address the community needs, the community preferences in each one of these things,

James Cook: Ersal, you are spearheading the development of Eleven Park, describe that project and tell us how that fits into the city as a whole.

Ersal Ozdemir: Eleven Park is a transformational riverfront development in the heart of the city. We are on the river, block away from NFL stadium, Lucas Oil, a block away from the baseball stadium convention center, White River Park. The zoo is across the river. We got several fortune 150 companies within a block to multiple blocks away.

The NBA patients Rena is 67 blocks away. So, it really is in the heart of the city. And I think it will be the probably the most urban. Closest urban core development of such kind in the country that I am aware of right now. So, it was an existing chain factory for over 100 years. And they stopped making chains recently, and they got sold to a public company, another public company, and they did move. Obviously, building chains, manufacturing on a multi-story, hundred-year-old building is not efficient in today's. So it's anchored by 20, 000 plus seats soccer stadium for in the 11, but it's also will do over a billion dollar mixed use development around it, so we're hoping that we will expand downtown and transform that part of downtown and to create a whole district to connect the west side of the river to the east side of the river where we are, and then connect our area to the core of the city.

James Cook: So, let me ask you this. My main gig is I'm a retail researcher. So, thinking a little bit about the retail merchandising, you must merchandise this differently than other types of mixed-use projects, because, well, you've got people who are going to live there and people who are going to visit there.

So how are you thinking about what the food would be in a project like this, what the, you know, are you going to add additional entertainment? Also, are you going to add retail that's for the neighborhood, like a grocery, for example.

Ersal Ozdemir: Well, a hundred percent is target a grocery. We have one actually we're talking to now. It's not going to be a giant 40, 000 square feet, but it's a more boutique to serve not only the 11th park, but there's a great neighbor to the south and to the west. And I don't think anything serves in that area.

So, we think it's important to really have all the basic needs that somebody needs, so we're looking for basic amenities like that, as well as we will have restaurants. We're hoping to have some restaurants that actual live music. The South Street where we're on two blocks to the east on the same street, we have the oldest bar in the state Slipper Noodle I think it's been 1851, they have amazing music, live music there we're hoping to do kind of a build on that.

James Cook: Yeah, that's fantastic. So, Jim, you know, the whole landscape here, what's considered cutting edge? What are like the newest stadiums and arenas adding in order to distinguish themselves.

Jim Renne: The focus has always been on the internal experience, that is sort of the amenities, diversity of the experience, all kinds of premium more authentic food and beverage experiences within the venues. But I think what I think results trying to do, and I think we're going to start to see more is how do you actually become more connected to the district piece. I'm starting to see how you make it a little bit more porous. there's some challenges with that related to security when you have a game versus when you don't have a game.

But I think the idea is, is that maybe what Aristotle said was like, you go back centuries. Well, maybe not centuries, but you know, many decades. Where you had sports teams already embedded in villages, right? So, it's kind of that feeling. It's like now there's a stadium when you get past a certain building.

It's like right there. And I think creating that kind of let's call it contextualism for sporting venues, I think is something that you're going to see more and more the challenge is always with these stadiums is that, , when there isn't an event, while there might be other things going on, it becomes a little bit of a, let's call it a black hole. The worst ones look like a black hole. There's nothing going on, right? And I think what we're trying to do is try to activate the edges, even though it's not a game, here in Indianapolis. But I think you'll see that more of a trend. So, it's now more integrated, feel more natural in terms of despite the scale.

But it still comes down to what does it feel like on the ground? So that's, I think that's what you'll start to see more technology. Of course, right? I can't leave that out. I mean, it's going to be a seamless experience, technologically speaking. And so the district, going from the district or walking in the stadium, you want to have the same kind of capabilities, you know, the backbone, the same, but then, there's always applications that relate to vendors or retailers or others in that district that maybe live there, that can sort of, , go from one kind of experience if you're a resident to another, if you're a store that wants to maybe appeal to somebody that's going to a game.

You know, you have to be authentic marketing. There's a whole marketing thing about that, right? You have to be careful about, but I think there's an opportunity to be cross marketing in terms of fans to retailers, retailers to fans, and maybe creating new fans who don't usually go to a game and vice versa.

James Cook: I want to dig a little bit into the economics here for a second. So traditionally, you think about an arena, you make money on the ticket sales, but now, do you have to be a developer and you're really making your money on the property rents or what are the income streams here, that are kind of new that folks are relying on now.

Ersal Ozdemir: you know, obviously Not every team owner that is doing this is on the real estate, right? So, these are separate entities, and you need them to be sustainable. And want to give the fans a great experience, regardless who's developing, we are confident that since we've been announced that 11 park is going to happen, so much more is coming to the area.

We've had a small industrial building cross street has been empty and they got to rezone their opening Italian restaurant, so there is starting to see more residential, more announcements, more properties where people on the other side of the river selling properties.

So, we've always said that it's going to be catalyst for the area, but there's so much to do. The project is large enough to be impactful and actually be very successful. But you can continue built on that for many years to come. So, we're kind of the nucleus and linchpin for the whole area to take off. That's the success of most of our projects in the past from Downtown Carmels and Sophia Squares and Olivia's and Broder Pool that we go there before in a great area that has a potential and we build an amazing mixed-use project. And then other success developers and continue to supplement it collectively. We help to build a district to do that, so we're hoping to do that, in a larger way here as well. So, the team needs to be obviously successful with the experience. But this does help real estate regardless. You know, we want to provide an amazing experience for game day for our stadium users as well as any other venues around us to do that. The real estate obvious has to be sustainable on its own. You're obviously creating a lot of construction jobs. You're creating thousands of permanent jobs and you're changing the fabric in a positive way.

So, they all have to be successful in his own way to make sure that you have a successful project. I want to say what's unique for Russell and not to say that it isn't the case for others, but I mean, this is, this is, this is Home, right? This is the hometown. This is where his business is. He's a long-term investor as far as I'm concerned.

Jim Renne: For him, I imagine, it's about, about a long term hold really. You know, he's got a team here. This is his development too. He'll partner with others perhaps, but I think, Taking that more to a larger, picture , is to say that, , I think the success comes in being with, when you're an affiliate with a team those teams are typically, anchored in that market, so that naturally means that they're going to be long term holders or residents or participants, in that community, which I think also then speaks to the investment that might be going into the real estate, which First of all, I can't speak for you.

I don't know what your plan is, but ultimately there's a growth in real estate value over time as well. I think there's a premium because these districts are very unique. Number one, right off the bat in terms of lease the rents, but there's also kind of long term hold and say, maybe, a developer might just develop, but then ultimately sell the property after stabilization.

James Cook: Jim, maybe this, I'll start with you for this. Like how important is it to engage that fan base for one of these projects? Or is it more important to engage a more general audience, you know, kind of get it widely appealing.

Jim Renne: I think it starts with, your avid fan base because, that's who's going to be driving, who's going to be kind of loyal, who's going to always go into your games. No matter what, right. The casual fans are, maybe, not as exciting, or maybe not as let's call it loyal, if you're not winning, they may not be as interested in attending.

 So, I think you've got to start with your core fan. And then really from there, I mean, recognizing that, , my opinion, just having been in this industry for almost 30 years, the change, of the preferences of fans have occurred, right. And so, my generation of fan is different than those who are my sons and those are, who would be, I don't have grandkids yet, but, you know, at some point, they're younger, have different kinds of, things that hold their attention. So, the industry has had to adapt to that, and sports teams have had to adapt to that.

And venues ultimately been having to adapt to that. So you start with your core and to me, you go from there and start to figure out , what makes sense to kind of reach out and then, and then attracting new fans.

James Cook: This is going to be a hybrid arena in that it caters to both the men's and the women's team. That seems to me to be something new and am I right in saying that's kind of something that the modern fan demands, right? Is they want to see that equity, that equality.

Ersal Ozdemir: We've said this years ago, and we think it's the right thing to do and even though it might not be as sustainable, we believe that our fan base is everybody. Especially with the U S women's team globally they're the best women's team in the world. We will be amazing to have some of the national athletes to play for us here in town. But even our current women's team that we have in the amateur, we have some of the best college players that play there in the summertime. It is also. Amazing to have a team that actually won national championship in their second year. First year, we lost it in the finals. But a second year we won that. So, it's, it's amazing to see this talent.

Jim Renne: Can I add a little bit to that, just from a broader perspective, and I think I mean, Russell's, , being a little humble, but the reality is, I think women's sports has finally gotten the attention of , not just fans, but investors. And while there's still the model that's, financially and economically, so let's be kind of worked out and figured out, it's very evident that now that investors in sports properties, meaning teams of any sort in the professional realm it's gotten a lot of attraction. So, whether it is soccer, women's basketball, you can see it in the franchise values. And I think it's, finally time, to start to gain a little bit more equity before, , quite a ways away yet. I think we're finally gotten traction.

James Cook: I'm going to ask you one final question about the future and that will kind of wrap it up with that. Sound good. So, 11 park, it's broken ground. what's the timeline? I know these projects are so complicated, but in your ideal setting, , when can I go for a game? When can I go have dinner in

Ersal Ozdemir: great question. Obviously, we acquired the site in pandemic, I think late 2021. And then we started the design process last year and design is moving forward. In May 31st of last year, we had a groundbreaking. There was a lot of old buildings there for a long time. And since then, there's been a lot of progress. We're working with the site conditions right now.

And at the same time, the design of the stadium, the real estate is in progress. We're hoping that we'll have first set of plans to start actually building late this summer. And the goal is to have with all planners, as you know, construction, there's always. Challenges, especially coming out of pandemic, but to start playing games depends on the time of the year. Our league goes through March through October in the summer of 2026. That's the plan right now for, to finish the stadium.

James Cook: Excellent. So that's not too far off. That's in the, that's in the near

Ersal Ozdemir: Well, it is too far off for me. We've been, we've been, we've been working for a while. So for me, but you're right. like somebody told me before everything worthwhile takes time. As much as we love to have this thing yesterday, but when it's done it's going to be beautiful. We've been very thoughtful to make sure that we're incorporating a lot of good ideas. Best practices, the community input, city input, state input to make sure that not only we are building a beautiful stadium, but we're creating a whole district, a transformation riverfront district that will be something we'll all be proud of, which will elevate and make the downtown, the city more successful for the visitors as well as all the residents of the Indiana for many years to come.

James Cook: Jim I know we've got a number of examples around the world of these mixed-use projects that are anchored by a stadium. Do you think that we'll see even more of these in the future? In other words, is the velocity increasing on this type of project?

Jim Renne: I think it is, it's always an economic challenge, right? Not just challenges in building, but challenges in putting together the economics to make it work. The velocity is going to increase, but we're going to have to find, ways to look at how to make the economics work with the stadium.

Or arena or whatever the sports venue is combined with, a district like this. And so, I think it's going to take many forms and every market's going to be a little bit different. But I think right now it's for the foreseeable future anyways, I see it can be very strong that these are what we're going to have to be looking at.

And it's not a bad thing. I mean, it's a good thing. There's a lot of great things that come from this. I'm really excited about Universal's project and, seeing it kind of come to life as much as we've been spending time on it. , it's going to be fantastic.

James Cook: Excellent. Jim or salt. Thank you so much for joining me today. This has been a fascinating conversation.

Jim Renne: you.

Ersal Ozdemir: Thank you. Have a wonderful day.

James Cook: If you liked this podcast, do me a favor and go into the app that you're listening to right now and give us a rating. Even better. Give us a little review, just write a sentence about one thing that you liked about the show. Of course, you need to be subscribed to trends and insights, the future of commercial real estate in that same app to get a new episode every time we publish. Or you can find us on the web anytime at We'd love to hear from you. Send us a message, a note, an idea for a new episode, whatever. Email us at

This episode of trends and insights was produced by Bianca Montes.

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