‘Venue sector is in a constant state of flux’


Rob Hunden at Coliseum US 2023 Image: Coliseum GSVA

Rob Hunden has every little detail of the United States venue industry on his fingertips. He is the President of Hunden Partners, US, and is a full service consultancy. Each year they work with about 75 to 100 clients.

Hunden is well aware and informed about the latest developments in sports venues, the ongoing construction projects, team relocations, and naming rights changes.

Rob Hunden and his Chicago-based firm Hunden Partners offer extensive experience in the economics of placemaking, primarily via transformative real estate projects like the mixed-use stadium districts.

In a talk infused with data, Rob Hunden, President, Hunden Partners, US, tells ‘Coliseum’ that the venue industry is in a constant state of flux – “Everything changes every week. Every day that goes by another venue announces they might be renovating or considering leaving Chicago or any other place in the United States.”

Rob Hunden, President, Hunden Strategic Partners, US, is a Member of Coliseum Global Sports Venue Alliance.

Hunden Partners

Chicago (US)-based Hunden Partners is a real estate development consulting practice specializing in master feasibility studies for destination assets.

State of the Industry: 2023

Rob Hunden began by informing, “We are based in Chicago. It had actually been a sort of a quiet year (2022) for deliveries, less than a billion hours of delivery for new construction and in 2021 we actually had three billion in deliveries. So, we are going to go through everything that is changing and has changed in the past year. Our firm does 75 to 100 projects in a year mostly on the upfront advisory feasibility, market announces and economic and fiscal impact announces and getting them finance.”

Enthused Hunden, “We are working with the United Soccer League (USL) Championship team Indy Eleven on their 1.5 billion dollar behemoth for soccer and for the City of Indianapolis. We are really thrilled to be working on that one. The Indy Eleven fans can expect to enjoy games in the new stadium by the Summer of 2025.”

Anchored by a 20,000-seat multipurpose stadium that will be the new permanent home of Indy Eleven, the development will also include over 600 apartments, 205,000 square feet of office space, over 197,000 square feet for retail space and restaurants, a hotel, public plazas with green space, and public parking garages.

Talking about major league facilities, he further informed, “We actually have fewer facilities and the trend is going down in terms of new facilities, the cost, of course, of everything is going up and continues to go up. By league, if we take the average of the last three years, the National Football League (NFL) has achieved 0.8 billion in terms of costs, the National Basketball Association (NBA) at 1.3 billion, the Major League Baseball (MLB) at 1.6 billion, the National Hockey League (NHL) just under a billion, and the Major League Soccer (MLS) at 643 billion.”

Continuing with his data information, Hunden stated, “As far as the total spending on major new league facilities is concerned, the average annual spender in the last 25 years is 1.9 billion and it is tending to increase again which is inflation. So, the building industry is still getting a little bit bigger, the volume and space is bigger and, of course, the technology involved continues to get more expensive and is always evolving. The total spending on renovations continues to go up so these average renovations comes to circa 500 million dollars. So, we have got two major renovations planned – the Progressive Field and the EverBank Stadium.”

The seats are just one of the many upgrades taking place at the 34,830-capacity Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio, home of the Cleveland Guardians of the Major League Baseball (MLB) and the complete list of renovations won’t be done until 2025. As for the 67,838-capacity EverBank Stadium, home of the Jacksonville Jaguars of the National Football League (NFL), the concourses in the stadium will be four times wider than they are now and a system of parks will lead to the stadium entrance. But a glass roof above the stadium is the big talker today because it could be a game-changer in terms of fan experience.

He added, “And the major league facilities built by decade, this decade would be a busier one and then we project 21 new venues would be built in this decade which would be built that of the prior decade. It is just a projection.”

Out of the renovated facilities, Hunden swears by the 18,000-capacity Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana, the home of the Indiana Pacers of the NBA, which he terms as “It really is one of the best and it is the second most expensive on renovation ever of a major league venue and it is simply fantastic. The food and beverage (F&B) is great. We had a chance to tour and I highly recommend plus they have opened their Bicentennial Unity Plaza which includes an outdoor basketball court which will convert to an ice skating rink and they have got restaurants right there on the side and it is a big public interactive plaza they are trying to activate. It is a total transformative project.”

With the aim of enhancing the fan experience, the three-year, three-phase modernization included construction of an all-season outdoor plaza that provides guests with more social and gathering spaces. Inside the seating bowl, every seat was replaced and the Fieldhouse’s center-hung scoreboard was upgraded. The new scoreboard is significantly larger, and the state-of-the-art LED underbelly allows fans sitting in the lower bowl to catch replays and stats without straining. Construction crews completed the third phase of Gainbridge Fieldhouse’s renovation project, which cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

On the NFL new builds, the Chicago Bears have been finally approved to build a new stadium at the Arlington Park in Chicago, Illinois – “We are also working on Arlington Heights but there is a lot of political intrigue associated with this. As far as the NFL team Tennessee Titans go, their 55,000-60,000-capacity New Nissan Stadium will mostly be publicly-funded and they really want to make a local type of entertainment district around and not something super cheesy and tourist-oriented and they are trying to make things a little more authentic and interesting.”


Rob Hunden wrapped up by stating, “We have got lots of new mixed-use districts developments coming around. So they are really trying to put all the placemaking together which is what we love and what we love to do. With our clients we have put together these awesome places that people want to live-work-play-visit.”

Continue to follow Coliseum for latest updates on venues business news. Coliseum is dedicated towards building the best global community of sports and entertainment venue executives and professionals creating better and more profitable venues.

Become a member of the only Global Sports Venue Alliance and connect with stadiums, arenas and experts from around the world. Apply for membership at coliseum-online.com/alliance and make use of the 365Coliseum Business.

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