Public venue projects signal U.S. ready for return to normal
The pandemic forced communities in America to mandate lengthy periods of social distancing. Now that the mandates have lessened, city and state officials are eager to fund projects designed to bring people back together. Large initiatives to construct sports stadiums, event centers, and municipal buildings are being launched with great enthusiasm.
The state of New York recently funded a feasibility study to explore options for relocating the Buffalo Bills football team. The study concluded by suggesting two possible sites in the Buffalo area for a new stadium capable of seating 60,000 people. Both site options carry a projected cost of more than $1 billion. State officials hope to conclude the decision-making phase soon and issue solicitation documents for contractors in January 2022.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, has been designated as the future site of a 11.5-acre civic space that local officials are calling Penn’s Landing Park. The space will become an entertainment complex that will be designed to host festivals, concerts, and large events. An ice skating rink and seasonal swimming pools are included in the plans. The $225 million project will be advertised to bidders in 2022. City officials want the project completed and operational by America’s Semiquincentennial celebration, which Philadelphia will host in 2026.
Another project in Pennsylvania is being planned in the city of Reading. The current FirstEnergy Stadium will undergo a $16.5 million expansion with funding from both state and local sources. The stadium is currently home to the Reading Fighting Phils, a minor league affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies baseball team. The stadium will be renovated to include player-friendly facilities mandated by Major League Baseball (MLB). Construction is scheduled to begin in 2022 so that the stadium meets all MLB requirements in time for the team’s 2023 season.
City leaders in Knoxville, Tennessee, also want a new stadium and have announced plans to build a $74.5 million multi-use facility that will host the Tennessee Smokies, a minor league affiliate of the Chicago Cubs baseball team. A Sports Authority Board, formed by the city of Knoxville and Knox County will seek private-sector partners in January 2022. The plan is for construction to begin early in 2022 because the goal is for the new stadium to be hosting events by 2024.
On the local level, Friendswood ISD in Texas will seek a private-sector partner to construct a multi-use auditorium and gymnasium on the Friendswood High School campus. The project’s initial budget of $58 million has been secured through bond funding. District officials will begin a formal outreach for the construction in February 2022 with work to begin shortly afterwards.
Plans to build a new community pool and an accompanying splash pad in Middletown, Connecticut, will be advertised to bidders in February 2022. The facility, which will be called the Veterans Memorial Pool, will feature a state-of-the-art community swimming pool with bathhouses. Projected costs are not finalized but will likely exceed $33.5 million. Most of the funding will come from a bond package that voters approved in 2015.
City officials in Panama City, Florida, will soon select a design partner for a new performing arts center. The $100 million project will replace a civic center that was destroyed in 2018 by Hurricane Michael. Plans for the civic center have incorporated objectives that include enhancement of community life, sustainability, and elevation of the city’s status to that of “a premier city.”
A convention facility known as The America’s Center in the heart of downtown St. Louis will undergo massive renovations at an estimated cost of $210 million. The project will be advertised to bidders through two separate phases of construction. The first phase will include development of an exhibit space covering 92,000 square feet and the addition of 26 new loading docks. The second phase will cover construction of a new ballroom and an outdoor plaza. In spite of recent delays, the initiative calls for contracting solicitations to be released during the first quarter of 2022.
In Virginia, the regional Historic Landmarks Commission (HLC) has authorized the city of Suffolk to begin planning for an outdoor event space that will adjoin a municipal facility. HLC approved the demolition of several downtown buildings to make way for the new facilities which will host community events. The project, with an anticipated cost of approximately $23.3 million, is already in initial stages of the design phase. City officials will issue solicitation documents for construction partners in 2022.
The Municipal Building Committee of Richmond, Massachusetts, recently unveiled plans to build a $6.8 million town center. The building will include a local library and serve as a community center. A request for bidders on the construction phase will occur in January 2022, and the construction is scheduled to begin in March. A completion date of spring 2023 is designated.
Projects such as these are common throughout the country. Government leaders are eager to launch projects that will revitalize communities and generate new revenue for citizen services. These initiatives also will result in new state-of-the-art and more sustainable facilities to accommodate the improvement of citizen lifestyles. And, projects such as these indicate that the country is preparing also for a return to normalcy.