What It's Like to Live in a Sports City

Depending on your lifestyle, living next door to a sports arena can be either a perk or a pain.
By: Geoff Williams
U.S. Cellular Field

U.S. Cellular Field

U.S. Cellular Field opened in 1991 after the Chicago White Sox spent 81 years at Comiskey Park. The stadium is located just west of the Dan Ryan Expressway, and was built directly across the street from old Comiskey Park, which was demolished to make room for parking.

Photo by: Frederick Nachman

Frederick Nachman

U.S. Cellular Field opened in 1991 after the Chicago White Sox spent 81 years at Comiskey Park. The stadium is located just west of the Dan Ryan Expressway, and was built directly across the street from old Comiskey Park, which was demolished to make room for parking.

Living in a sports city is like watching any sporting event, be it football, baseball, basketball or even water polo: People are going to have differing opinions on what the experience is like.

If your team stomped its opponent, you’ll probably leave concluding that a good time was had by all, and that it was the best game you’ve ever seen. If your team was the one that was humiliated, and the goon sitting behind you spilled a drink down the back of your shirt, it’s safe to say that you’ll leave with a different opinion.

Likewise, homeowners who live near a sports venue have varying opinions. Knock on any door, and what one homeowner will tell you will probably be the opposite of what the next person will say. Whatever the opinion, it’s definitely a unique lifestyle. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like, listen to what locals who live the reality every day have to say.

Getting Around

When you’re a sports junkie like Kevin Lynch, living near a sports venue is paradise.

Lynch, 28, owns a house within 10 minutes' walking distance from M&T Stadium, where the Baltimore Ravens play, and a 15-minute stroll from Camden Yards. For a living, he runs a website devoted mostly to high school sports (SportsMaryland.com). He is a sports junkie, estimating that he attends 20 to 30 Orioles games a year.

“If you’re a sports fan, you can’t beat it,” says Lynch of his community, Federal Hill, a neighborhood just south of Baltimore’s business district.

He and his girlfriend, Christine Allman, often stroll to the stadiums, sometimes deciding on a moment’s notice that they want to attend a game.

“We never worry about parking,” says Lynch. “We’ll decide we want to go, and 20 minutes later, we’re in a seat. A lot of the hassles like traffic, you just don’t have to think about. It’s great.”

Federal Hill, concludes Lynch, is “an incredible place to live, as long as you don’t have a family.”

Funny he should say that.

Autumn Rose Reo, 28, lives in Arlington, Texas, with her husband, Chad, a 31-year-old financial manager for a healthcare company. Reo is in marketing, and they have a 13-month-old baby boy, Jackson. When they first found their two-story house two years ago, they instantly fell in love with it. “It was built in the early 1980s, so it’s an older home, which is what we liked about it,” says Reo.

They were within a mile of the Texas Rangers Stadium as well as Hurricane Harbor, a giant water park, and an enormous amusement park, Six Flags Over Texas.

“When we moved in a little over two years ago, I was excited to find such a great house close to these family-centered destinations,” says Reo. “Well, I’m not so sure how great it is anymore.”

That’s because they learned soon after that the new Cowboys Stadium would be built within a mile of their house.

The new stadium has brought a lot of construction projects -- widening roads, for instance -- and the new energy in the city has brought in new traffic and has also created plenty: With the cars moving very slowly now, the roads often resemble parking lots. “There’s so much congestion right now -- it’s a huge, chaotic mess,” sighs Reo. “It’s hard to drive anywhere, including my gym, the grocery store -- I can’t even get to my dentist’s office right now.”

Only in their home for two years, the Reos are already considering selling and moving to a quieter part of Arlington.

Be prepared to deal with heavy traffic if you live near a sports arena. 

Owning a Home

Whether you’re a sports fan, family man, soccer mom or soccer player, there are positives and negatives if you’re going to live near a sporting arena. So if you’re thinking of moving to the heart of a sports city, here are some of the things to consider:

  • Property values. While it’s easy to imagine them going down because of crime or strangers hanging around -- Reo envisions someday seeing scalpers on her front lawn -- they can also go up. Lynch says that Federal Hill is full of a lot of young professionals, and so he doesn’t worry about falling property values. In fact, he owns a second house that he rents out.

  • Star power. OK, maybe this isn’t a reason to move near a stadium, but there’s no denying that it’s a perk. Peggy Collinsmith, who lives in Green Bay, Wis., grew up in walking distance from Lambeau Field, where the Green Bay Packers play.

    “When Bart Starr was a quarterback, he lived two blocks away,” says Collinsmith of the football giant who played during the 1960s. “We would often see several of the players at church, stores and restaurants.”

  • You could turn a small, tidy profit living near a sports stadium. Your teenager could have a fun summer job selling popcorn at a baseball stadium, or -- just think -- your kids could become professional scalpers. But seriously, a lot of people make extra cash by letting people park in their driveways (and sometimes on their lawns) for a fee, and if you’re up for it, there’s actually an online business -- GameDayHousing.com -- that focuses on college football stadiums. One of the business' founders, Chris Brusznicki, explains the concept: “Homeowners who live near these stadiums leave for football weekends and rent out their places to groups of fans from out of town.”

  • Your life can easily be shaped by the sports schedule. Roberta Guise doesn’t live near a ballpark, but she works 500 yards from one, and she often wonders what it would be like to live in one of the condos next to AT&T Park in San Francisco. “When the games let out, I’m trapped in my office for almost two hours because of gridlock. Even if people have season tickets and are avid fans, I can’t imagine how they are paying up to $1.5 million for a condo on this industrial waterfront, where they’re trapped hours at a time, six months of the year and forced to plan their lives around the ballgames.”

Finding Fun

Because sports stadiums are a magnet for crowds, Lynch observes that he and Allman have plenty of mini bars and restaurants they can visit as well as the harbor. The stadiums also attract other big sporting events, like soccer and lacrosse.

“We get a lot of college games, and the Mountain Dew Action Sports Tour. There’s a lot of cool stuff that goes on around here,” says Lynch, “and I think everybody in the area, whether they’re from Baltimore or not, enjoys the festival-type atmosphere.”

Matt French, 34, his wife, Dayle, their 1-year-old son, Hudson, and their golden retriever, Hank, live in a condo across the street from Petco Park, the home of the San Diego Padres. French, who works for an information technology service company, used to live in San Francisco and dreamed of living next to AT&T Park. But life got in the way, he moved to San Diego for work reasons and when the chance came to move into a condo adjoining Petco Park, he grabbed it.

He used to have season tickets, but he says his job is so unpredictable, he stopped that. Still, he can buy tickets for $7 and often takes his family to the games. Fortunately, Dayle’s a big baseball fan as well.

French says that a big benefit of living so close to the stadium is that “if you’re a social person, all of your friends want to come down and visit and be at the center of the action.”

For French, there simply isn’t any downside to living so close to a sports arena. Not even gridlock. “Sometimes I take the train, but I drive too, and I’ve gotta be honest. The Padres are having a difficult season, so traffic isn’t that big of a deal,” says French, before acknowledging: “But it can be crazy when it’s busy.”

Still, the craziness is arguably part of the charm. “We love having the ballpark as our backyard. Yes, it can be crazy, but we love being in the middle of all the action,” says French before suddenly sounding like a member of the city’s chamber of commerce. “San Diego has done a tremendous job creating an inviting environment for fans of the Padres, plus those that live in the area. The stadium has a park in center field that they open to the public when games aren’t scheduled. It’s our playground. The Padres security and staff know us by name and love our dog. It’s a very cool environment that’s keeping us from moving to suburbia.”

French’s one regret is that his home doesn’t face directly into the stadium, as some of the condo units do -- and thus, those people can literally watch the games from their balconies. “If I could do it again, I would have spent a few more dollars,” laments French. “Those opportunities don’t come along every day, and if you’re going to do it, do it right.”        

Tallying the Cost of Living

"At this point, I don't think I am paying too much more to live next to the stadium. At this time it is less about the money I am spending and more about the time I am wasting (and time is money),” says Reo, from Arlington. “If there is a big game, waiting lines in a restaurant can be rather long and, of course, if you need to go somewhere near the stadium, forget it. Drive further away to be able to get in the door without hours of traffic.”

Reo acknowledges that the housing slump has affected their property value, but says the fact that they are in a growing neighborhood puts them in a better position than other areas.

“As the community prepares for the Super Bowl, we are hard at work creating new retail, hotel and restaurant establishments,” she explains. “Roads and areas are also receiving much attention that will improve the look of this part of the city which, in the future, may increase the value of the property if people are looking to move into this area. But time will only tell, and of course, we hope that this is the case, so we might actually sell the home in a few years."

Over in Baltimore, Lynch says living near the sporting venues isn’t much more expensive than living elsewhere in the state. “If you go to the beach, you'll notice spiked prices on everything, but not here,” he says. “There are so many bars and restaurants that they compete with each other, creating a lot of good deals and specials.”

Lynch says the stadiums add value to the neighborhood, which already benefits from beautiful parks and its proximity to the harbor and downtown.

“The stadiums definitely help the property value because they have fueled much of the development in our neighborhood and add a lot of income to the bars and restaurants,” he says, adding that a new casino and soccer stadium will replace some of the area’s run-down warehouses.

Renovated homes in Lynch’s historic neighborhood range from $250,000 to $500,000. And there are two things that are a bit expensive for the area: A gym membership costs about $80 a month, double what it costs in the suburbs, and property taxes.

“Baltimore city's property taxes are about twice that of anywhere else in the state,” he said. “But city living is so much different than suburban living around here that it doesn't seem to hold many people back. "

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