The Suburbs Are a Great Place for a Football Stadium

Eli Manning of the New York Giants speaks to fans as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie looks on at a rally to celebrate the New York Giants’ Super Bowl victory at MetLife Stadium on Feb. 7, 2012 in East Rutherford, N.J.

Photograph by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images.

Any time the Giants win a Super Bowl and earn themselves a parade through Manhattan, as happened yesterday, some commentary about the fact that they actually play in New Jersey arises. Meanwhile in D.C. at least one city councilman won’t give up on the dream of bringing the Redskins back to the city away from their home in Landover, Md.

But sentimental issues aside there’s a very good reasons not to locate a professional football team in a major city center—the NFL season doesn’t involve very many games. Over nine days out of 10, an NFL stadium is just a big empty space surrounded by parking facilities that are also empty. There’s nothing wrong with building structures like that. Space is very plentiful in the United States of America. But space is not plentiful in New York City or in the District of Columbia. A building that’s only really in use a dozen times a year needs to be put someplace where space isn’t scarce, someplace like East Rutherford or Landover. A baseball stadium with over 80 games or a dual use NBA/NHL arena that also houses some WNBA or Arena Football and the occasional concert or circus is a very different story. Indeed from an urban economics point of view this whole problem was solved back in the 1960s when we were building combination football/baseball stadiums. But teams and fans don’t like those, and the consequence is that football teams get pushed into peripheral areas.