Final Project

For the last 17 years, the most popular professional sports league in the United States has been absent from the nation’s second largest city and media market. Since the Rams departure to St. Louis and the Raiders return to Oakland (both in 1995), Los Angeles has been without a franchise in the National Football League (NFL).[1]  Since the Rams and Raiders both played their last games in Southern California, 21 new stadiums have been built around the league; and every other city which had lost a team in the modern era has seen a new franchise come in.[1] At current, two stadium proposals are vying for the right to become the home of the NFL’s triumphant return to the City of Angeles. Both privately financed, the 68,000 seat Farmers Field is slated to be built on the current site of the West Hall of the Los Angeles Convention Center next to the STAPLES Center, while the 75,000 seat Los Angeles Stadium’s proposed location is in a vacant field 20 miles to the east of downtown in the City of Industry.[2] & [3] This GIS report analyzes the two competing stadium bids in terms of site suitability, access, and residential noise exposure.

Farmers Field next to STAPLES Center at L.A. Live

Los Angeles Stadium at the City of Industry

Spatial Analysis of Sites

To explore the suitability of the two sites for a future NFL stadium I decided to explore four variables related to access and community resistance spatially: proximity to existing football stadium capacity, proximity to Metrolink commuter rail stations, proximity to Metro Rail lines, and distance from populations over the age of 67. The following model was then used to reclassify the rasters on a scale of 1-5 to achieve an output of low-high (proximity / or suitability) depending on the variable.

 

To achieve the layout (below) kernel density was performed on geocoded points of the current football stadiums in Los Angeles which contained a population field for stadium capacity.

 

Access to Metro Rail (below) was achieved by performing the Euclidean Distance to Metro Rail lines at a cell size of 25. Metro Rail in this analysis is comprised of the Blue, Gold, and Green light rail lines as well as the Purple and Red subway lines. It should be noted that the addition of the Expo Line will bring even more Metro Rail capacity in close proximity to the Farmers Field site. Metro Developer was used to source the data for the lines.

 

The layout analyzing Metrolink station proximity (below) was derived from the kernel density of Metrolink stations. As both stadiums would draw fans from not just L.A. County but the entire Southern California region, commuter rail would provide a valuable option for those from further afield. Metrolink has already shown its commitment to reducing gameday congestion and traffic with its “Ducks Express” and “Angels Express” trains to Anaheim. The data for stations and lines was sourced from Metrolink directly.

 

Hotspot Analysis

From the three rasters displayed above and a raster of populations over 67 (with the lowest receiving the highest desirability) derived from using feature to raster under conversion tools, a hotspot analysis (below) was performed to show locations in L.A. County most suitable for a new NFL stadium under the given criteria. Using the raster calculator the variables were given the following weights to create an index: proximity to Metro Rail 40%, proximity to Metrolink stations 30%, proximity to existing stadium capacity 20%, and populations over 67 years old 10%. As a transportation planner I instinctively placed a higher weight on the transit variables but there is also reasoning behind this. Both of these variables carry a far greater scope and scale in terms of creating a successful stadium project and a surrounding vibrant space. While the variables “proximity to existing capacity” and “populations over 67″ voice concerns over the rationality and disturbances of the projects, in reality these are likely to carry little weight in the long-run as neither project is utilizing public funds.

 

Network Analysis of Sites

In order to perform a network analysis of the sites a network dataset was built from a detailed L.A. County streets shapefile sourced from the UCLA Mapshare. By using “Calculate Geometry” and the Field Calculator, driving times were computed by dividing the distance of the streets by their respective speed limits (provided in the shapefile). To assess the driving times to the sites from across L.A. County the service area feature of the network analyst was used. Each site was loaded as a “facility” by drawing each as a point in a new shapefile. The two resulting layouts (below) represent the range of driving times to each site from across L.A. County.

The results for Farmers Field were impressive, with most of the major population centers of L.A. County within only a half an hour drive of the site.

The results for Los Angeles Stadium were far more skewed to the east, with major population centers such as the Westside, San Fernando Valley, South Bay, and Long Beach up to an hours drive from the site.

 

Noise Exposure Buffers

The final analysis conducted was to assess the amount of residents that would be subjected to disruptive and in extreme cases hazardous levels of sound. The base maximum noise level was set at 140dB. This was derived from the highest noise recording in the NFL’s loudest stadium (Seattle), taken during the 2006 NFC Championship game when the crowd reached 137dB.[4]  A calculator was used to measure the attenuation of noise levels over distance, from which the buffer distances and decibel levels for the layouts were derived. A shapefile provided by the UCLA Mapshare allowed for population by block group from the 2000 Census to be merged into the attribute table of each buffer. The resulting layouts (below) display the dispersion of maximum noise levels expected by the stadiums (drawn as polygons from a new shapefile) and the populations within each buffer that will be exposed. For reference, sustained exposure at 85dB+ can result in permanent hearing loss, while at 100dB serious damage can occur in 15 minutes. [4]

 

 

Findings and Conclusions

This initial analysis showed that both potential sites have advantages and drawbacks. In terms of rail access Farmers Field was in very high proximity to Metro Rail lines while Los Angeles stadium was in little proximity. The kernel density of Metrolink stations suggested that both sites had “moderate” access to the commuter rail service. This does not take into account that on a much smaller scale the Los Angeles Stadium site would be far better suited for Metrolink as it contains a station adjacent to the parcel. Under the criteria of the hotspot analysis other areas such as Montebello (roughly between the two sites) and parts of the San Fernando Valley were suggested as far better suited for the stadium.

In terms of driving times from the network analysis Farmers Field was the clear winner with most of L.A. County’s major population points within a half hour drive. Of course any analysis of traffic in Los Angeles should mention that the service area is calculated without the impedance of traffic jams. It should also be mentioned that while Los Angeles Stadium did not perform as well in terms of driving times the analysis was only conducted on the scale of L.A. County. If performed for a wider area of Southern California by including San Bernardino and Orange Counties, the Los Angeles Stadium site may prove to actually be better suited for serving drivers than Farmers Field.

In regard to the noise exposure analysis a far greater number of people would be exposed to disruptive levels of sound near Farmers Field. It should be noted however that in terms of both disruptive sound and public health the extreme proximity to the interchange of the 10 and 110 Freeways should be of far greater concern to the residents. While GIS is very useful in analyzing specific variables and gaining a visual perspective of a topic this is a prime example of the danger of ignoring variables if they are not included in a map. It should also be mentioned that the scale at which we set our analysis (in this case L.A. County) should not limit our capacity to understand an issue. In further exploration of this topic the inclusion of Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Ventura Counties would be beneficial.

In terms of a recommendation for the optimal site for an NFL stadium in Los Angeles this simple analysis is not enough. Without the use of public funds either one of these projects would provide a fantastic addition to Greater Los Angeles. While Farmers Field clearly provides the more transit-friendly option, self-selection theory suggests that most gameday travelers will choose to drive. Concerns over externalities such as traffic and noise may also be overstated as the usage of an NFL stadium is limited to only a few (often weekends) days a year.

References

[1] Markazi, Arash. “A 16-year Rocky Relationship: Why No NFL Team in L.A.? It’s a Study of Power Brokers and Bureaucratic Morass.” ESPN, 5 Feb. 2011. Web. 22 Mar. 2012

[2] “Our Plan.” Farmers Field, 2012. Web. 23 Mar. 2012

[3] “LOS ANGELES STADIUM.” Los Angeles Football Stadium at Grand Crossing. 2010. Web. 23 Mar. 2012

[4] Hobson, Katherine. “USA! USA! Nascar, NFL May Be Louder Than the Vuvuzela!” The Wall Street Journal. 16 June 2010. Web. 23 Mar. 2012

Data Sources

Lab 1, 2 Prepared Files, LA Locator from Lab 4

American FactFinder

Metro Developer

Metrolink

Noise Dispersion Calculator 

 UCLA Mapshare