The panel for “City Planning and Entertainment Districts and the Venue Footprint in 2030.” (Eric Renner Brown / Staff)
Few venue-related advancements in recent years have been more prominent than the strategically planned entertainment districts sprouting up around arenas and stadiums.
Several leading minds in the sector — John Shreve (Populous), Peter Feigin (Milwaukee Bucks/Fiserv Forum), Eric Nordness (Hickory Street Capital), Kirk Safford (Lyft) and Dana Warg (313 Presents) — convened at the VenuesNow Conference on Tuesday to discuss the rapid growth of such districts, and what lays ahead for them.
For one, not all entertainment districts are created equal, a contrast illustrated by Feigin and Nordness’ work with the areas surrounding Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee and Wrigley Field in Chicago, respectively.
With Fiserv Forum, planners had 30 contiguous acres to work with; at Wrigley Field, Hickory Street Capital had only a small sliver of land next to the ballpark – three acres total – to use for development.
The real estate differences necessitated different approaches structurally, and have yielded different programming approaches.
The sprawling complex around Fiserv hosts all sorts of programming, including hyperspecific festivals like Lobster Fest and Bloody Mary Fest. “You name it, we fested it,” Feigin joked.
Meanwhile, Wrigleyville, the neighborhood surrounding Wrigley Field, was “in some ways … the original entertainment district,” with “entrepreneurial folks” opening taverns and other establishments when the park opened more than a century ago, according to Nordness.
Wrigleyville has long been a destination for young partiers, so Hickory Street Capital targeted its new development at another demographic.
“We purposefully segmented our supply differently,” Nordness said. “We didn’t cater for that kind of post-collegiate, higher-energy crowd. We definitely made ours more family friendly. We went more upscale, more premium. And what we found was that customer really wasn’t getting served pregame at Wrigley. They just weren’t coming. They were timing their visit to show up at the ballpark, and that was it.”
But, as Safford pointed out, “the one constant … day in and day out,” regardless of clientele, is the transportation aspect.
Integration of ride-hailing services such as Lyft and Uber has “evolved pretty substantially, even in just the last couple of years,” he said. “The majority of our partners indicate that 25 (percent) to 35 percent, or more, of their attendees are taking rideshares to and from these events. Now, it can no longer be an afterthought.”
Though these services are now easier to use after events than ever, Safford said further streamlining is ahead. “We’re moving into the revenue-share aspect of things so that both sides are incentivized to actually figure out this problem,” he said.