Framework of characteristics that support successful community development in association with the development of professional sports facilities
Sports stadiums and arenas and public funding is a tough issue. Generally, based on the economic research, advocates always argue against. But the reality is that economic interests and elected officials are generally all in.
So a campaign based on "saying no" is likely to have little impact.
Since the facility is going to get built, with public money, now I argue that we ought to focus on extracting the best possible contract providing the greatest possible community and economic return to the locality, rather than just letting the sports team reap the majority of the benefits.
-- "Baseball World Series in DC as an opportunity for urban planning reflections: #1 | revisiting blog entries from 2005/2006,"
-- "Baseball World Series in DC #2: Eleven urban planning lessons from the Washington Nationals stadium"
Over the years, I've been working on creating an item framework, since my first crack at it in 2014. The most recent version is from 2019 ("Stadiums and arenas redux: Mayor Bowser still wants the area NFL team to relocate to DC").
But today I am revisiting it, sparked by a community planning effort in Salt Lake City.The Salt Lake planning process is centered around the Ballpark neighborhood-where a classically designed stadium with great views is home to the Salt Lake Bees minor league baseball team.
I think the key problem with the dearth of revitalization benefits is the lack of a an overall planning and implementation initiative, although there are other issues--the railroad tracks support industrial development, there aren't a lot of build out opportunities on the east side of the tracks, closer to the stadium, the area is distant from Downtown, where a stadium may have made more sense from a leveraging revitalization opportunities standpoint, etc.
Creating a revitalization program for a stadium, arena, or exposition facility that is outside of a downtown or major activity center is tough. So Salt Lake has a tough row to hoe.
So I decided to take another look at the framework, and I realized that a specific section on neighborhood benefits, if relevant, needed to be separated out as an element.
Note that some of these items are less relevant to smaller communities, and those lacking robust transit networks, and with a sprawl development paradigm.
There is also a difference of opportunities between "big leagues," minor league teams, and college teams ("Economic impact of college football means season cancellation will crush college town economies reliant on sports visitation," 2020, "American City Business Journals calculates the capacity of North American metropolitan areas to support new/additional professional sports teams," 2015).
And practice facilities, which despite all that is touted by teams, seem to have very little economic impact ("Sport team practice facilities and public subsidy (a practice facility for the Washington Wizards)," 2015). Arguably, baseball training camps are problematic too, in terms of financial subsidies from local governments.
Planning Framework for sports stadiums and arenas
- a publicly produced and robust master plan which isn't a "bag job" produced by sports team interests;
- size of the facility and its ability to be integrated into the urban fabric (baseball, football, basketball, hockey, soccer), bigger stadiums--football stadiums specifically--are harder to integrate in the urban fabric.
- isolation or connection: how well is the facility integrated into the urban fabric beyond the stadium site and does it leverage, build upon, and extend the location and the community around it. The classic example is Wrigley Field in Chicago versus White Sox Stadium. Wrigley Field is embedded in its neighborhood, while White Sox Stadium is disconnected from its.
- urban design treatment of the route to the stadium. Classic examples are Fenway Park in Boston, Wrigley Field, to some extent Camden Yards in Baltimore. See this discussion ("Sadly, DC won't show so well during the Baseball All-Star Game,") concerning Nationals Stadium.
- ownership split concerning ancillary development around the facility: is it all controlled by the team? Again, the White Sox Stadium is a good example of failures in this dimension.
- frequency of events held by the primary tenant--baseball has 82 home games/year, football about 10 including pre-season, basketball and hockey have 41, soccer about 17--so football stadiums are very rarely used (according to the Chicago Sun-Times article "Emanuel mulling 5,000-seat expansion to Soldier Field," the facility holds about 22 events including annually, 12 non-football events);
- how many teams use the facility, maximizing use and utility of the building--for example, Capital One Arena in DC is used by professional men's basketball, hockey, and one college basketball team for more than 100 sports events each year (until recently it also hosted professional women's basketball);
- are events scheduled in a manner that facilitates attendee patronage of off-site businesses--a business isn't an anchor if it aims to not share its customers; the earlier events are scheduled, the harder it is to patronize retailers and restaurants located off-site, at night during the week, there is limited post-game spending as well, on the weekends it's a different story with more opportunity to patronize off-site establishments--teams manipulate scheduling to reduce spending outside of their on-site and 100% controlled facilities;
- use of the facility for non-game events drawing additional patrons--such as concerts and other types of programming;
- how people travel to events: automobiles vs. transit--if automobiles are the primary way people get to events, then large amounts of parking usually in surface lots needs to be provided, making it difficult to foster ancillary development because of lack of land and poor quality of the visual environment, whereas if transit is the primary mode, then more land around a facility can be developed in ways that leverage the proximity of the arena.
- locating stadiums and arenas in high-capacity transit locations: e.g., Madison Square Garden, Barclays Center, and Capital One Arena are served by multiple transit lines, whereas most stadiums and arenas are sited in locations that have single line transit service.
- transit capacity: subway transit has much greater capacity than light rail, and depending on the schedule, railroad passenger service. Buses have less capacity too, but depending on the nature of the event, many can be deployed. Promising high quality service when transit modes lack the throughput and capacity (e.g., World Cup soccer in Dallas, Super Bowl at Meadowlands Stadium in New Jersey) creates serious problems.
- transportation demand management requirements: some teams have TDM plan requirements, in particular the Chicago Cubs, most don't. Some teams provide a great deal of information or support for sustainable mobility, most don't. Some teams pay for transit services (Pittsburgh Steelers and Pittsburgh Stadium Authority pay part of the cost of free transit to the light rail stations serving their facilities, called the North Shore Connector). At least some of the time (the Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals) sports teams may pay toward service extended beyond normal hours when games go late, most don't (Washington Nationals).
- special marketing initiatives/other agreements with transit authorities: For example, the transit authority in Salt Lake City treats tickets to sports events at the University of Utah as an all-day ticket. Some railroad lines provide special game day service for football games and other events and a wide range of marketing programs (Metrolink, Caltrain, New York MTA). While it wasn't put into practice, the transit authority in Sacramento proposed providing Sacramento Kings ticket holders with "free transit" in return for certain subsidies.
- parking taxes to support community improvements: years ago a neighborhood association in the Hill District of Pittsburgh suggested creating a parking tax that would go towards funding local community projects as a mitigation program ("A dollar a car for the Hill," Hill District Consensus Group). A parking tax should be assessed in any case.
New York City's arenas and to some extent some baseball stadiums, the Capital One Arena in DC, Wrigley Field in Chicago, and PacBell Park in San Francisco are particularly noteworthy examples of sports facilities well connected by transit, where a majority of attendees get to and from the facility on transit.
As mentioned, some sports teams (and other groups) have paid towards transit stations serving their facilities, including the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Pittsburgh Stadium Authority (but not the Pirates baseball team directly), the New England Patriots ("Commuter rail service to Foxboro to start in October," Quincy Patriot-Ledger, and the New York Islanders ("Islanders arena project at Belmont Park now includes new LIRR station," Newsday).
- community benefits agreements that provide additional benefits to the city overall
- fair lease terms rather than agreements where the team pays little or no rent. For example, the City of Anaheim has made little net revenue--$50,000/year!--from the Anaheim Angels baseball team ("Stadium maintenance, debt eat into Anaheim's revenue from hosting Angels baseball," Orange County Register) which is why admissions and other taxes can be especially important.
- profit percentage paid to the local/state governments upon the sale of the team, in recognition of the importance of government funding for the facility and/or support infrastructure (like what was intended for the Miami Marlins stadium) as well as the reality that the facility is the platform for the success of the entire enterprise
- entrepreneurship and social enterprise opportunities. Are there programs to support small business operation of concessions and contracting? Can workforce development and social enterprises be a part of this mix? For example, the West Nest concessions stand in Mercedes-Benz Stadium is operated as a social enterprise by the Westside Works community organization ("At Mercedes-Benz Stadium, West Nest provides a training ground for Westside Works students and grads," Atlanta Magazine).
- public facilities access and use program, such as how the basketball arena in Bilbao includes a recreation center open to the public, including access to the main court when not in use; while not on-site, the Redskins football team did pay towards a community and recreation center in the area of the stadium
- admissions taxes and receipts: Prince George's County would make almost zero off the Washington Redskins if it weren't for an admissions tax on each ticket; but many teams argue against imposing such taxes or that they should be the beneficiaries, e.g., the Washington Wizards used admissions tax receipts to pay for interior improvements, "Verizon Center Ticket Tax to Rise to 10%," Washington Post, 2007.
- as discussed in the previous section, paying towards transit and transportation facilities is another city-wide benefit.
- development and maintenance of a community plan, focused on neighborhood revitalization in association with the creation of the sports facility. One example is the plan created for the Aycock neighborhood of Greensboro, North Carolina. Other examples include plans associated with the development of minor league baseball stadiums in Memphis and Louisville, Kentucky, although these were more focused on downtown revitalization.
- neighborhood focused community benefits agreements. The Atlanta Falcons football stadium was developed with such an agreement ("Building a Stadium, Rebuilding a Neighborhood," New York Times, Falcons community impact website) which included job training, employment targets, the creation of social enterprises, etc., although there is criticism of the program.
- creation of an implementation organization to guide neighborhood improvements.
- creation of "community safety partnerships" ("Creating 'community safety partnership neighborhood management programs as a management and mitigation strategy for public nuisances: Part 3 ")
- parking taxes to support community improvements (discussed above): years ago a neighborhood association in the Hill District of Pittsburgh suggested creating a parking tax that would go towards funding local community projects as a mitigation program ("A dollar a car for the Hill," Hill District Consensus Group)
- admissions taxes: (discussed above). A portion of admissions taxes should be designated for neighborhood improvement programs.
- public facilities access and use program (repeated from above). such as how the basketball arena in Bilbao includes a recreation center open to the public, including access to the main court when not in use; while not on-site, the Redskins football team did pay towards a community and recreation center in the area of the stadium.