We Rank the Walkability of NBA and NHL Arenas
And continue to judge cities that are not Toronto.
Last year, to mark the 2016 home opener of the Toronto Blue Jays, Torontoist ranked the walkability of all 30 ballparks in Major League Baseball.
As the Toronto Raptors and the Toronto Maple Leafs both head into the playoffs, we give you the ranked major league hockey and basketball arenas by Walk Score and by transit access. Ten arenas in North America are shared by NHL and NBA teams, with the Staples Center in Los Angeles used by the LA Kings, the LA Lakers, and the LA Clippers. The Detroit Red Wings and Detroit Pistons, who currently use separate facilities, will share the new Little Caesars Arena in the 2017-2018 season.
Rogers Centre SkyDome enjoys the top spot for both walkability and for transit access in Major League Baseball, followed by Wrigley Field and Fenway Park. But the competition is more intense for the most walkable venue—Barclays Center in Brooklyn, home of the Brooklyn Nets and the New York Islanders—has a Walk Score of 99, and a Transit Score of 100. The Air Canada Centre, home of the Raptors and Leafs, has a Walk Score of 97.
Generally, basketball and hockey venues have a higher average walk score than baseball stadiums, which makes sense. The average Walk Score for NBA venues is 75.6; for NHL venues, it’s 73.7; for MLB, the average Walk Score is 66.4. American football venues, which require the largest playing surface and can seat the most spectators, rank the poorest (though the large suburban parking lots facilitate the most American of sports rituals: the pre-game tailgate party).
Hockey and basketball arenas take up less space than ball parks, they seat fewer spectators, and are often designed for concerts and other events, making downtown sites a good fit.
While the Atlanta Braves are moving into a new ball park in suburban Cobb County this year, the trend for the NHL and NBA are downtown or other urban locations. This season, the Edmonton Oilers moved into a new downtown area, and the Detroit Pistons are moving downtown from Auburn Hills. The Ottawa Senators, which has the second-worst Walk Score in the NHL, are looking to move downtown as well.
Walkability and transit access are important. Politicians are often pressured to give direct public funds or tax concessions to major league team owners, who talk up the economic benefits of pro sports (while promising to move the team elsewhere without a favourable deal). Sports venues in urban, walkable neighbourhoods can at least spread spending to outside restaurants and shops; spectators who choose to drink pricey beers have multiple options for getting home.
The top arenas for walkability are:
1. Barclays Center, New York (Brooklyn Nets, New York Islanders)
2. Prudential Center, Newark (New Jersey Devils)
3. MTS Centre, Winnipeg (Winnipeg Jets)
4. Madison Square Garden, New York (New York Knicks, New York Rangers)
5. Verizon Center, Washington (Washington Wizards, Washington Capitals)
6. Air Canada Centre, Toronto (Toronto Raptors, Toronto Maple Leafs)
All the above are in downtown locations or urban centres and located near multiple transit routes. Newark’s Prudential Center was a surprise, but that downtown arena is near PATH trains to New York, frequent NJ Transit commuter trains, and light rail and local buses.
The worst arenas for walkability are:
45. Smoothie King Center, New Orleans (New Orleans Pelicans)
46. AT&T Center, San Antonio (San Antonio Spurs)
47. Canadian Tire Centre (Ottawa Senators)
48. The Palace of Auburn Hills, Auburn Hills, MI (Detroit Pistons)
49. PNC Arena, Raleigh (Carolina Hurricanes)
With the exception of New Orleans, whose arena is accessible by streetcar and just north of its downtown core, all of the above are suburban arenas, surrounded by parking lots. The Palace of Auburn Hills doesn’t even have any public transit access. However, the Detroit Pistons are moving downtown.
Incidentally, New Orleans has the worst corporate naming deal in hockey or basketball, probably followed by Talking Stick Resort Arena, home of the Phoenix Suns.