Beyond the Build

Construction Trends

The Economic Impact of Sports Venues

Yesterday evening, I had dinner at the Federal Reserve where Lake Forest College economics Professor Robert Baade gave a presentation on the economic impact of sports venues. Dr. Baade is recognized as an expert, consulting nationally and internationally with countries including South Africa and Brazil. I left with a few interesting takeaways:

  • The social value of stand-alone sports subsidies does not justify their cost. The benefit comes from their ability to serve as a catalyst for surrounding urban economic development. Focus should be on the public benefits as they relate to quality of life.
  • His strategy is to build in urban areas so that stadiums are not relegated to seasonal / occasional use. In the U.S., Miami’s Joe Robbie Stadium was the first major sports complex to start the current trend of downtown venues, with corporate and loge seating comprising the lion’s share of income. These keep revenue local.
  • Technology will continue to pressure major sports venues. All venues are trying to create an entertainment experience beyond the event. Retail options, childcare and dog-sitting are among services offered.
  • Winning a bid for the Olympics sends a message of economic viability. The “BRICK” countries vying for the games are Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa–places that have something to prove.
In our hometown, It’s been interesting to watch the growth around Regions Field, the new urban baseball stadium. Dr. Baade’s theory has proven true: The venue has brought life to an area that was all but abandoned.
Merrill Stewart Jr.

Merrill Stewart is Founder and CEO of The Stewart/Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham.