The growing legacy of sport stadium projects

Sport long ago became a multi-billion dollar global industry, and with it the building of stadia to house the events.

Key drivers for stadium projects include major events such as the FIFA World Cup™ or the Olympics; professional franchises that want new facilities to drive revenues; localities that want to attract a team; national/local pride; and the belief that a new facility will increase tourism or regenerate a region. These factors have helped launch stadium projects in dozens of major cities worldwide.

Financing for such megaprojects varies. It may come from the team itself, perhaps in partnership with local government. In developing regions, the state may provide the money, or form a public-private partnership (PPP) for that purpose. The common US model, where the host municipality pays the costs through long-term bond issuance, hasn’t caught on elsewhere.

When any new stadium is contemplated for a nonrecurring event such as the Olympics or the FIFA World Cup™, the question of legacy arises. After the event, what use will be made of the event space, and of the housing and ancillary structures built for the athletes? This issue has not always received adequate attention. The result can be a vast, multi-structure, uninhabited ghost town – for which the bill is still unpaid.

Which illustrates the need common to all infrastructure projects: meticulous long-term planning that encompasses not only what is in the blueprints, but all the contingent considerations – the factors that make for a winner.