Designing Stadiums for an Autonomous Future
Currently there are 58 stadiums and arenas around the world under construction. Not one of these stadiums or arenas has been designed for the future of transportation: shared on-demand autonomous vehicles.
One of the newest stadiums, the Minnesota Vikings' new $1.1 billion U.S. Bank Stadium incorporates 1,300 Wi-Fi hotspots and a distributed antenna system—and not one autonomous vehicle drop-off and pickup zone. As of 2014, the median age of an NFL stadium that was replaced was 31 years. While the U.S. Bank Stadium was designed to last for 30+ years, the fan experience will decline rapidly and the stadium will become obsolete in less than five years due to the fact that autonomous vehicles were not included in the master plan. When the U.S. Bank Stadium turns 31, the year will be 2047. Shared autonomous vehicles will be commonplace, and the Minnesota Vikings will have spent millions of dollars retrofitting their stadium of the future for the future.
When the retrofitting begins, the parking lot sizes at the stadium will decrease as autonomous vehicles will not park on site. This newly found space will allow for the Vikings to create new fan experiences at the stadium such as “retro tailgating” and fan experience zones. These new experiences will not only offset the loss in parking revenue, but they will increase the revenue generated per square foot. During the retrofitting period, the team will lose millions of dollars on parking and lost fan experience revenue. This revenue lapse could have been avoided if the stadium was designed for the future of transportation.
Designing for the future is exactly what Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan is doing for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Prime Minister Abe is following the playbook developed by Prime Minister Eisaku Satō when he served as State Minister in charge of organizing the 1964 Summer Olympics. The 1964 Olympics took place just 19 years after World War II, which was catastrophic for Japan. To show the world Japan's recovery, Japan Railways Group unveiled the high-speed Shinkansen (bullet train) to the world on October 1, 1964. Nine days later, the 1964 Olympics kicked off in Tokyo.
Fast forward to today and the new Shinkansen is the autonomous vehicle. Continuing the history of Japanese innovation, Prime Minister Abe recently addressed the Annual Meeting of the Science and Technology in Society Forum and stated; “I can tell you that in 2020 Tokyo, self-driving cars will be running around, and you will be able to use them to move about.”
With self-driving cars on the roads of Tokyo taking fans to and from the Olympic stadiums, we will look back in history and identity the 2020 Tokyo Olympics as the tipping point for incorporating autonomous vehicles into the design of stadiums.