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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

After years spent believing "bigger is better," America's professional sports teams are changing course and building smaller, more intimate venues.

What's happening: Stadiums are shrinking because of lower attendance and millennials' viewing habits.

  • Lower attendance: Thanks to things like HD TVs, instant replay and social media (aka, the "second screen"), fewer people are going to games. The in-home viewing experience is simply too good.
  • Those darn millennials: Watching a game isn't enough for them. They want to socialize and wander around. In response, stadium architects are beginning to reinvent the upper deck — removing seats and replacing them with things like lounges and social spaces.

By the numbers:

  • MLB: The Braves, Marlins, Twins and Yankees have all downsized since 2009, and the Rays plan to reduce seating at Tropicana Field from a league-low 31,042 to roughly 25,000 this season, per JohnWallStreet.
  • NBA: New arenas in Sacramento, Calif., Milwaukee and San Francisco will all have 40 or fewertraditional suites, a huge decrease from their predecessors.
  • NFL: Only the Cowboys and Jets/Giants have built 80,000-seat venues this century, and the 65,000-seat stadium the Raiders are building in Las Vegas will be one of the league's smallest.

The bottom line: Fans are attending fewer games than they used to — and when they do show up, the focus for many of them is on having a shared live experience (similar to what you get at, say, a music festival) rather than merely watching two teams compete.

What's next: In 2000, futurist Watts Wacker predicted that stadiums of the future would be turned into sound stages with a few thousand seats optimized for TV. That could be where we're headed — especially if/when VR headsets that put you on the 50-yard-line take over.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Texas AG sues Biden administration over deportation freeze

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks to members of the media in 2016. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is suing the Biden administration in federal district court over its 100-day freeze on deporting unauthorized immigrants, and he's asking for a temporary restraining order.

Between the lines: The freeze went into effect Friday, temporarily halting most immigration enforcement in the U.S. In the lawsuit, Paxton claims the move "violates the U.S. Constitution, federal immigration and administrative law, and a contractual agreement between Texas" and the Department of Homeland Security.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
1 hour ago - Podcasts

Carbon Health's CEO on unsticking the vaccine bottleneck

President Biden has said that getting Americans vaccinated for COVID-19 is his administration’s top priority given an initial rollout plagued by organizational, logistical and technical glitches.

Axios Re:Cap digs into the bottlenecks and how to unclog them with Carbon Health chief executive Eren Bali, whose company recently began helping to manage vaccinations in Los Angeles.