The Impact of Stadiums and Arenas

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The reality of either positive or negative impacts of stadiums has been the subject lately of a great deal of controversy with experts lining up on both sides of the issue. Stadium opponents declare that the facilities and the teams have no immediate nor permanent economic impact. Further, they claim that all the jobs created are minimum wage positions, and therefore the process is worthless and bogus. Meanwhile, the Chambers of Commerce, professional teams, leagues and politicians claim there is a positive impact on a city's economy and image. If the voters did not want a new stadium, the politicians would usually be hard to find. Much of the rhetoric has been based upon opinion and not hard data. However, some studies do indicate that the final impacts of new stadiums were far less than what was promised. This is especially true for an NFL stadium which has only one sports team in resident for less than 10 games annually.

In my opinion, the issue can only be properly addressed by considering the stadium, its location, the major team or teams that will play there and overall utilization. The stadiums and arenas reflect marked differences between baseball, football and basketball attendance and their respective economic impacts. It goes without saying that the team or teams must be at least marginally successful in playing their respective sports and in winning the hearts and minds of the local public. I am not a great believer that public dollars should support new stadiums. However, I think that the issue is far more complicated than how it is often viewed. It is not simply dollars and cents, as many would like us to believe. There really is an issue of city image and personal pride. We are a sports crazy country, and it's our tax dollars. In Denver, the community voted new sales taxes to finance the $215,000,000 Coors Field, while they voted down a $32,000,000 bond issue for schools.l It does not make sense; however, the people had the opportunity to speak. It was their choice, regardless of what the critics think. In other communities, while the critics complain, the public votes with its wallet. According to a study, The Stadium Binge, published in a special sports section of USA Today (Friday, September 9, 1996), "45 new stadiums will be built in this decade at a cost of over $9 billion." The residents of roughly 45 cities have and or will have their say on this issue, while the critics will continue to grumble. On a personal note, while a city's image can be difficult to define, I live in Chicago and no matter whether I am in Europe, South America, the Middle East or the Far East, everyone wants to know about Michael Jordan. Al Capone may have put Chicago on the map, but Michael Jordan has remade the city's image.

Over the years, I have had numerous occasions to address the stadium issue while evaluating the impacts of stadiums throughout the United States and Canada. The focus has been on the impacts of stadiums in or near downtown areas; the value and impacts of Wrigley Field and the Chicago Cubs on their Wrigleyville neighborhood, the City of Chicago, Cook County and State of Illinois; forecasting attendance for numerous public facilities; continuing to evaluate the impact of the proposed new Milwaukee stadium on the surrounding and adjacent properties; and studying the opportunities for restaurants, stores and concessionaires in numerous arenas, amusement parks, airports, schools, universities, etc. I have evaluated the impacts of night versus day baseball and the benefits of singleuser versus multi-user stadiums. I have seen both sides of the issues, the debates, the emotion and the hype. Neither side is ever truly correct; however, both the pros and the cons make salient points regarding the benefits (or lack of) and the costs.

The Issues And Their Impact

The location of the stadium is truly significant when it comes to economic impact. Location, location, location is as true for stadiums and arenas as it is for retailers. …