For the first time in a long time, the Astros are in the world series. This may not seem relevant to the planning process, but consider that when professional sports teams start winning, local governments and private entities begin negotiations on how to capitalize that process for the city. Frequently, residents are dazzled with plans for a new stadium, even while affordable housing and infrastructure issues are more pressing. College tuition has skyrocketed for many reasons, but many because of major investments in sports on which college administrators are expecting returns. It is time for winning in professional sports to cede real benefits for constituents of their hometowns.
The reality of local government budgets is that when one major project is chosen, many other projects are swept aside if not cancelled. Taxes used for stadiums cannot also be used to fix roads, improve schools, and allow for cost of living increases for municipal staff. People understand that money is finite and when there are so many projects in need, the majority of constituents would prefer practical investments. Too many municipal projects are shut down because of undue focus on amenities.
Traffic becomes congested every time a game is in town, and with stadiums with extra amenities, people have even more reason to crown the area — and even less reason to stay in the area when there is no game in town. The flip side of stadiums packed with people are deserted parts of the city – or campus – when no one is participating in the event. While few would argue for the abolition of professional sports, there are many stadiums that can create unsafe spaces because people do not regularly traverse the area.
More importantly, not everyone can enjoy the new stadium because professional sports tickets have become an extravagance to many. The cost of living in areas that have professional teams escalates beyond the capacities of the working class even as they are needed to maintain luxury style living. Local entities would do well to investigate whether a great inequity indicator actually offers appropriate returns on investment for all constituents instead of those who can afford such niceties.
The mayor of Dunkirk, France was challenged with the proposal of a new stadium, which would have costs citizens and was considered controversial. Instead of listening to the moneyed interests intent on creating this “cash cow,” the mayor pondered what would actually benefit the residents. As a result, public transportation will cost nothing for local riders beginning September 2018. Winning professional games is entertaining, but winning amenities for all is rewarding.