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    What do Cities do when sports come calling?

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    by David S. Abrams, January 19, 2018

    For elected officials, when big-time sports comes to town and asks the question: What can you do for us; it usually means help build us a sports facility. Not any sports facility, but one with all the bells and whistles that government may own but with limited access to the major direct facility revenue sources. There are two questions you should be prepared to answer before this inquiry heads your way: 1) Have our civic leaders pondered this before and what is our plan? and 2) how do we measure success in this type of venture?

    Since every community is different, I try to aggregate several issues that are common to most communities. These issues are the first elements in our “secret sauce” of what makes an invest in sports successful:

    • Is there local community support for the venture?
    • Is there a perception of economic and social benefit from the project?
    • Is there a receptive environment for sports in the community?
    • Does the community have one or more adequate sites with the ability to provide related infrastructure?
    • Will the local and regional demographics supportive of the project for both the team and the community?
    • Is the economic and business environment supportive of this type of project?

    These six topic areas are those that should first be considered to determine if going forward is realistic. There doesn’t have to be an overwhelming “yes” to each, but the answers to these questions will likely give you a sense of the appropriate direction. The question posed by invest in sports may be clouded by the legacy elected officials would like to leave behind or the romantic idea of retaining or obtaining a sport enterprise for the community. Big-time sports can be a catalyst to numerous local benefits ancillary development possibilities. However, the local benefit of an investment in sports and its related infrastructure may come quickly or not at all. Incremental benefit is highly dependent on how the business relationship is structured and if the sports is integral to the fabric of the community.

    Each community is vastly different in its approach, approvals, budgetary constraints and desires to host big-time sports. When the question comes, have an answer to “what is our long-term plan and how will we measure success? From this point community leaders should respond to the 6 points and their related issues. Once this is completed, if there is a framework for moving ahead, then move carefully in assembling a team to evaluate the particular business issues that are important to your community. A summary of those issues in Part 2 of “what do Cities do when sports come calling?

    David S. Abrams
    Clinical Assistant Professor, Tisch Institute for Sports Management, Media, and Business
    NYU School of Professional Studies

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