Dear Colleague:

Something has happened to the American sports venue. Despite their great cost, stadiums and arenas  have become as disposable as the paper wrapper on yesterday's tater tots.

The latest example, of course, is Atlanta Fulton Stadium, the current venue of the Atlanta Braves. This 17-year-old has-been was built as a venue for the Olympics, and converted a year later for major-league baseball. It's publicly owned. But the stadium is not perfect. It does not connect easily to public transit, and parking can be hard to find. Plus, the downtown location is this "minority-majority" city (no dog whistle here!) is not optimal for the majority of Braves fans, who live in the northern and western suburbs. (Did you hear a high-pitched squeal? Me neither!)  The stadium may need $150 million in repairs, the Braves management claims. "Who's gonna pay for that?" they appear to say, without using those exact words. "Us? We don't think so." 

Anyway, after 17 years of pre-recorded electronic organ accompaniments to "Take Me Out to the Ball Game," the Braves are looking for a greener pasture. That new pasture, depending on the will of local voter, may lie in suburban Cobb County, just 12.5 miles to the north. With little or no public input, the county supervisors have agreed, in principle, to contribute $300 million toward the $670 million stadium. Plus, the county has agreed to pay 50% (!) of future maintenance costs, without any ability to recapture that public money. That's not a problem, because county officials say the whole thing can be done without raising taxes! Taxes are tyranny, after all, and nobody treads on Cobb County (unless they're millionaires wearing cleats.) 

And just so the deal won't be a total waste, the Braves brass say they want to spend another $400 million on 1 million-square-feet  of "sports entertainment" sprawl, replete with bars, restaurants and impulse retail; the team is reportedly shopping for a developer to go halves with them. Some Cobb County residents have reportedly complained that the planning process has been conspicuously, uh, absent. Well, if there's one thing you learn from living in the South, it's that you can't please everyone. 

As for the 17-year-old stadium in downtown Atlanta, they'll find something to do with it, won't they? Just ask the folks in Irving, Texas, who demolished their 39-year-old Texas Stadium in 2010, after having been abandoned by the Cowboys for the $1.15 billion AT&T Stadium in nearby Arlington. The city has been trying to interest developers in the site. At last report, there have been no takers.

This discussion reminds me of Sacramento, home town of bothThis Reporter and the Sacramento Kings. The Kings have played the past 26 seasons in the Sleep Train Arena, formerly known as the Power Balance Pavilion, formerly known as Arco Arena. After a well-publicized fracas this past spring, which involved a tug-of-war for team ownership between corporate meanies from Seattle and some Golden State billionaires, the National Basketball Association decided that the Kings should stay in Sac-town, as long as the new ownership would build a $477 million stadium, this time in a downtown area. (This time, the location is fortunate, because it replaces an underperforming retail mall. Although Sacramento voters rejected a proposal in 2006 for a $600 million stadium to be built on the public dime, there were fewer protests this time around for a public contribution of $250 million for the crucial task of bringing basketball to downtown Tomato-town.  As for Sleep Train Pavilion, well, we'll figure out something. ( At least the 1988-era arena is finished, unlike the half-built baseball stadium next door, which will never be finished, apparently, because somebody else built a ball park, Raley Field, in the meantime.  

So clearly, colleagues, we can see that 1) teams need to move frequently and 2) stadiums have very short halflives. The cost of stadiums places an undue burden on both team owners and local governments.  Hell (pardon my language) stadiums can't even be converted to discount malls or low income housing! 

So here's the plan, on the down-low, colleagues: We are getting into the stadium business. And w only have to build two or three of them. How, you might ask, eye brows raised and mouth agape in astonishment, would this be possible? Oh, just for 7,000-year-old Mesopotamian invention known as little rubber wheels. 

Yes, colleagues, we're going to invent … the rolling stadium! Look, fellow planning journalists, it doesn't make sense for cities to spend to spend a half billion dollars every couple of years, just to watch the local sports heroes move to a newer stadium in another city. With our new proprietary CAL PLANNING ROL-ARENA ® we simply unlock the wheels underneath the thing, and push the sucker to the suburbs, or redeveloping downtown area, whatever. Granted, a stadium is a bit of a plus-sized customer for your standard super-freeway, so we would be wise to design the sports facility in 20-footwide segments, which can roll down the road, extra-wide-load-style. (Are you keeping up with me? I know I type pretty fast.)  

Now, you may say, whoa there Rabbi, how do we freshen up the architecture for new customers? After all, each new facility needs a unique, new look to impress the folks in suburban I've-Got-Mine-ville USA. This is where you're lucky to have someone like me, colleagues. For each new location in which a CAL PLANNING ROL-ARENA  ®  is deployed, we will use a new WRAP-AROUND sheet of mylar imprinted with a new façade, just like the printed coverings you see on personalized automobiles used by plumbers and internet start-ups.

The creative challenge here is to give each stadium an image based on local culture and history. Now, sports stadiums built in downtown areas of cities like Baltimore or Denver can reflect the look of historic buildings that surround them. Sacramento, for example, is a city with a rich railroad history, plus a brisk trade in vegetables. Imagine a stadium that is covered with a picture of an old locomotive, with the coal cars full of butternut squash! It will fit right in.

Corporate identity is obviously another area of concern. Sleep Train Arena --is there a better-named facility anywhere in the world?-- has had to change its name three times in past quarter century. (I've known embezzlers who have changed their names less often.) I propose that each rolling stadium be equipped with a big sign with magnetic letters, like those by second-run movie houses and organic-food supermarkets. I have done reconnaissance on these establishments, and have observed that a single employee, equipped with a magnet on a long pole, is able change the wording on these signs fairly quickly. We simply remove the magnetic letters that spell out SLEEP TRAIN ARENA and re-arrange them to read, for example, FLOOD PLAIN INSURANCE SERVICES,  A Levee of Safety When Your Waters Are Rising. At $20 million a pop for naming rights, I think it's a worthwhile investment. 

Now, colleagues, as I see it, the first hurdle we have to clear with this thing is money. For starters, I estimate--

(At this point, the computer freezes and the document is lost.)