Each year, there are changes made to the list of the world's costliest stadiums. More and more, cities are replacing their dated stadiums with modern facilities that have greater possibilities for making money. More seats, more luxury boxes, more parking, higher ticket prices and high-priced concession fare are all factors that make new stadiums attractive to cities and sports franchise owners. However, it isn't just the construction of new buildings that changes the rankings of the top five. Elaborate renovations, such as Madison Square Garden's current three-year, $850-million overhaul, propel the overall construction costs of these buildings up the rankings. Once the costs on this project are fully realized, look for Madison Square Garden to crack the top five, giving New York City a triple crown of world-class stadiums. In the meantime, here are the five most expensive stadiums in the world, with totals adjusted for inflation. (For related reading, see The Most Expensive Sports Tickets.)
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5. Wembley Stadium
Cost: $ 1.25 billion
Built in 2007, the home to England's national soccer team is actually the second incarnation of Wembley stadium. New Wembley was built on the same site as the storied original building, but it carries a significant amount of upgrades and features that old Wembley's designers didn't have the means to accomplish in 1923. First, not one of the 90,000 seats has an obstructed view, which in itself is a marvel of engineering, but in case you don't appreciate things you can't see, the engineers built a 133-meter tall arch that hovers over the north stands. Other impressive features include a retractable roof, a hybrid grass field that combines synthetic and real grass for a durable surface, and 688 places to get a drink – which may explain how they can dole out 40,000 pints of beer during halftime at a soccer game.
4. Cowboy Stadium
Cost: $1.3 billion
Everything's bigger in Texas, including prison electricity bills and, apparently, stadiums. Jerry Jones, owner of the historic NFL franchise the Dallas Cowboys, chipped in $241 million with taxpayer dollars to have this record-setting stadium completed in 2009. Records this stadium already hold include: largest domed stadium, largest HD video screens (two 60-yard-wide screens), largest attendance for a football game with 105,121 spectators at a 2009 NFL game and largest overall attendance with a crowd of 108,713 for the 2010 NBA All-Star Game. That's an impressive resume for only two years of service. (For more, read How Much Are NFL Teams Really Worth?)
3. Olympic Stadium
Cost: $1.4 billion
After Montreal was awarded the rights to host the 1976 Olympics, then Montreal mayor, Jean Drapeau stated, "The Montreal Olympics can no more have a deficit, than a man can have a baby."
While the latter statement is still firm fact, the former declaration left the mayor looking foolish, as it wasn't until 2006 that the final bill on Olympic Stadium was paid off. The building wasn't even completed in time for the Olympics … it didn't receive a roof until 1987. They may have wished they never bothered with a lid, because the roof had two separate incidents where huge sections collapsed (fortunately, no one was injured in either case). The pain of these construction woes worsened when the city lost its Major League Baseball team – the Expos – to Washington in 2006. Left without a major tenant, unable to open in the winter because the weight of snow may collapse the unstable roof, and spending tax money for three decades to pay for it, it's no wonder Montrealers began referring to the "The Big O" as "The Big Owe."
2. Yankee Stadium
New York City, N.Y.
Cost: $1.5 Billion
Along with his crusty temperament, pseudo-guest appearances on Seinfeld, and passion for hiring and firing Billy Martin, former New York Yankee's owner George Steinbrenner will also be well-remembered for his $1.1-billion contribution to the Yankees' new ballpark. Many baseball fans were hesitant to see the original Yankee Stadium demolished, but impressive efforts were taken to keep the history of the old building present in the new park. From the layout of the field to the design of the entrance, the overall shape and design mimics the original 1923 ballpark's blueprint. Even old-school touches were fostered into the new design, such as manually operated scoreboards in the left and right fields. And of course, Monument Park, the shrine from old Yankee Stadium that honored baseball legends such as Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, was relocated to the new park as well. (For more about baseball finances, read Money Can't Buy Happiness, But What About World Series Championships?)
1. New Meadowlands Stadium
East Rutherford, New Jersey
Cost: $1.6 billion
New Jersey currently lays claim to the world's most expensive stadium, but when you learn the details of the financing, it's little wonder they were able to build such an impressive stadium. Two of the NFL's most prominent teams, the New York Jets and the New York Giants, shared the construction costs equally and they continue their stadium-sharing plan that they had when they played in the old Giant Stadium. Completed in 2010, and currently known as MetLife Stadium, the new building is the largest NFL stadium without a dome. Some clever technology was incorporated into the design, such as lighting the exterior in either Jets' green or Giants' blue (depending on the home team), installing over 2,200 HD displays throughout the building and the ability to track concession sales as they occur. The last capability allows the stadium's management to quickly address shortages, long lineups and other customer service issues. Of course, even alien technology won't fill the stands if your team stinks, which was duly noted by Giants' owner, John Mara: "I've been in this business long enough to know that nothing enhances the fan experience more than putting a winning team on the field."
The Bottom Line
Our world's grandiose stadiums are much more than simply infrastructure for giving the local team a place to play and rock stars a stage to perform on. These buildings have the ability to become printing presses for money - generating revenue from ticket sales, merchandise, concessions, advertising/naming rights and parking fees while serving as a symbol of sports and culture for each building's respective city. The construction of some buildings has shown to be a wise use of tax dollars, and some stadiums have revitalized cities and provided them with steady cash cows. Other cities have been burnt by inflating construction and repair costs, and they never find a way to make the stadiums produce an adequate return on their investments. (If you are a sports fan, read Money-Saving Tips For Sports Fans.)
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