- Wednesday, July, 08, 2015
Blog: Women’s Soccer and Return on Investment
In the days after the U.S. Women’s soccer team’s World Cup win, we’ve heard a lot of back and forth over the issue of how much the players were paid. The women’s team received a record-setting $2 million for their win… record-setting for women, that is. Last year, the German men’s team earned $35 million for its World Cup win.
“But it’s all about the revenue!” claim those who justify the discrepancy. The women’s tournament brought in a mere $17 million in sponsorship revenue compared to $529 million for last year’s men’s World Cup. Thus, because the men bring in more revenue, it only makes sense that they get paid more.
When I was in college, I interned for an editor at a book publishing company. I recall, among the editor’s many tales of the publishing world, the story of how he signed one particular new author and set her up for success. Her work was good, he said, but she was relatively unknown and still new.
For those more familiar with coaching contracts than book contracts, book contracts typically pay an advance, anything as low as a couple thousand dollars (J.K. Rowling was given a £1500 advance on the first Harry Potter book) to upwards of $100,000, if you’re an established name. If a new author doesn't go over well with the audience, the publisher hasn't lost much. If they're good, the publisher simply ups the advance on the next book.
Rather than offering this new author something at the lower end of the spectrum as would befit the situation, the editor swung big. I don’t recall the exact dollar amount, but I think it was at least $20,000 (chump change for a pro athlete, but a big deal for a struggling writer).
His reasoning? The more the publisher invested in an author, the harder it would work to ensure her success, giving her a preferred launch date, better marketing and visibility. Part of this was about recouping the investment — book advances are paid against royalties, which means a larger advance needs to be offset by greater book sales if the publisher wants to come out ahead.
What does this have to do with soccer?
I’m not in the sports marketing business. I’m not even in the book marketing business. But I do know that a product’s success is as much about the effort that goes into marketing it as the quality of the product itself.
Don’t justify lower pay for female athletes by pointing to the lower revenue they generate — they’re not the ones negotiating sponsorship contracts or selling commercial slots. In the case of women’s soccer, FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke attributes the lower revenues to women’s soccer being a newer sport than men’s.
“We played the [20th] men’s World Cup in 2014, when we are now playing the seventh women’s World Cup,” Valcke said in December press conference. “We have still another  World Cups before potentially women should receive the same amount as men. The men waited until 2014 to receive as much money as they received.”
Or, how about this: Pay the players what they’re worth, and then put in the effort to back that investment up.
- Thursday, June, 25, 2015
Break Point: College Tennis Tries to Rally
The college tennis world is undergoing a quiet revolution. Or not so quiet, as anyone attending a Big 12 Conference match this past season would tell you. The new Roditi Rule, named after Texas Christian University men's tennis coach David Roditi, encourages fans to cheer for players (and heckle opponents — within reason) as they would at a football or basketball game. Combined with free pizza, contests and other activities to keep spectators engaged, the new rule created a noticeable difference in the fan atmosphere at Big 12 competitions.
- Friday, June, 19, 2015
A Response to Critics of Soaring College Rec Spending
“LSU Faces Dramatic Budget Cuts While It Builds An Expensive Lounging Pool” This was the headline of an article that appeared in The Huffington Post this past May criticizing Louisiana State University’s spending of $84.75 million on an overhaul of its recreation facilities despite a threatened $55.5 million funding cut from the state.
Last week New Jersey governor Chris Christie admonished what he considers wasteful spending in the higher education system, denouncing “extras” such as lazy rivers and climbing walls.
"Some colleges are drunk on cash and embarking on crazy spending binges,” he said.
If you work in college recreation, the incidents made you cringe.
The cost of higher education is going to get a lot of attention leading up to the 2016 election, and unfortunately, that’s going to come with a lot of misguided scrutiny of campus recreation programs.
What both incidents overlook — as anyone working in college recreation will immediately recognize — is that a university’s education budget and recreation budget are two entirely different things. Campus recreation centers are not built at the expense of science labs or classrooms. For most universities, such projects are funded (and maintained) from students fees.
"The funds for the project come directly from the student fee and can only be used for the project," LSU spokesman Ernie Ballard told The Huffington Post. "Similar to donations to the university or funds from the state for capital projects, these types of funds can't be shifted to fill in budget holes or be used in another way. They can only be used for what they were originally designated for."
The impact of such facilities on the price of a college education is actually minimal, according to David Feldman, economics professor at College of William & Mary.
“Lazy rivers are only a tiny piece of the costs,” he told Inside Higher Ed. “These lazy rivers are not the reason why student debt is soaring seemingly out of control. The big problem that higher education faces today, at the public side, is cuts in state spending.”
Some argue that cuts in spending are actually driving the construction of bigger and better recreation amenities, as universities look draw in more out of state students. According to research from the University of Michigan, “wealthier students [are] much more willing to pay for consumption amenities.”
Despite its negative headline, The Huffington Post article went on to admit as much, quoting a 2013 article in which former Miami University president James Garland explains, “We took advantage of low interest rates for municipal bonds and invested in rehabilitating our residence halls and eating facilities and putting in more recreation -- workout rooms and lounges, and the kinds of accouterments that really dressed up a campus and made it a much more comfortable and familiar place for upper-middle class students. So those students started applying to us in droves. Application numbers went up, we became more selective, and the SAT scores of the entering class became higher."
So, in the face of a $55.5 million budget cut (avoided, thankfully) LSU would need to rely more heavily on the appeal of its non-academic offerings to bring in more students and more revenue. As Jane Wellman, a finance expert with College Futures Foundation, told Inside Higher Ed, the issue is not of how colleges spend money, but the priorities of schools.
“The sense is that college costs are going up too rapidly, and institutions aren’t doing enough to control them,” she says. “The critique underneath that is the critique of the decision-making culture in higher education.”
Rather than ask why LSU would spend $85 million on a recreation center, maybe politicians should be asking why the state of Louisiana was mulling a $55 million cut to education.
We won’t get into the other complexities of campus recreation facilities, such as the positive economic impact of construction (According to NIRSA, $1.7B was spent on 157 recreation construction projects in 2012), the employment opportunities afforded to students, the educational programming opportunities, the importance of recreation to students' quality of life (and GPA), the role in building a schools’ reputation, or any number of issues.
Unfortunately, neither will the politicians pinning the climbing costs of higher education on climbing walls.
- Thursday, June, 18, 2015
New Projects: Foley Sports Tourism Complex | IU Natatorium
The Rockford Park District and Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau have broken ground on the Downtown Sports Complex, (above) the latest phase in the Illinois city's Reclaiming First initiative, which aims to revitalize sports tourism in the area. The complex will redevelop an old manufacturing building into a 100,000-square-foot court facility designed to host basketball, volleyball, wrestling, pickleball and other events. Designed by Sink Combs Dethlefs of Chicago, Ill., the $30 million project also includes renovations to the city's outdoor athletic complexes, Sportscore One and Sportscore Two, as well as the city's Indoor Sports Complex. The Downtown Sports Complex is expected to open in June 2016, as are five lighted multipurpose turf fields and an indoor soccer field at Sportscore Two.
- Tuesday, June, 16, 2015
The Market for Public Recreation Projects Is Rebounding
Two years ago, the public recreation submissions to the Architectural Showcase could be divided into two distinct categories: those costing more than $5 million and those costing less. All but one of the facilities in the former category are located in Canada.
- Tuesday, May, 26, 2015
How Lighting Changes the Group Fitness Environment
Neal Pire has spent more than 30 years designing, managing and consulting for fitness and training centers, including the development of fitness programs. Also serving on the NSF International Joint Committee on Health Fitness Facility Standards, Pire has seen a lot of good and bad facility design.
- Thursday, May, 21, 2015
Athletes Must Pass Phys. Ed. Under School’s New Standards
The Wareham, Mass., School District approved a proposal earlier this week to change the high school policy addendum to include stricter academic standards for athletes. Student-athletes must now pass at least seven major subjects per quarter to remain eligible for varsity sports.
- Thursday, May, 14, 2015
New Projects: Wehrle Innovation Center | Maryland Heights Community Center
The University of Charleston breaks ground this month on its Russell and Martha Wehrle Innovation Center (above), named to reflect a $5 million contribution from the namesakes' memorial foundation. Designed by Associated Architects of Charleston, W.V., the $15.5 million project is the final piece of a $100 million campus renovation project undertaken over the past decade. Phase one will replace the existing Eddie King Gym with a new arena featuring stadium-style seating, new concessions and a walking track. Phase two will renovate the aquatic and auxiliary gymnasium areas, add racquetball courts and a climbing wall, and link the new addition to the existing fitness center. The center will also house programming space for developing innovative projects and promoting entrepreneurship.
- Tuesday, May, 12, 2015
Mermaid Tails Newest Safety Concern at Canadian Pools
The growing popularity of mermaid tail aquatic accessories has officials in Alberta, Canada, concerned for swimmers’ safety. The tail, popular among young girls in particular, typically consist of brightly colored fabric that covers a swimmer’s legs and ends in a wide fin.
- Wednesday, May, 06, 2015
Two Boys Hospitalized After Tree Collapse at Park
Two young boys in Chelsea, Mass., were hospitalized Monday night after a tree collapsed onto the playground where they had been playing.
- Monday, March, 06, 2017
An Index to the Industry
This is the 41st Buyers Guide published by Athletic Business — the first having launched the Athletic Purchasing & Facilities brand back in 1977. As the story goes, founder Fenton Kelsey Jr. was working to construct an indoor ice arena in Madison, Wis., but couldn't find any references to guide him through the construction process or future management. So he decided to create one.
- Wednesday, November, 23, 2016
AB Show 2016: Thankful for the Chance to Share Ideas
Nothing helps transition back into office life after the whirl and excitement of another Athletic Business Show quite like a three-day workweek (apologies to our audience in Canada!). But even as I look forward to a day of good food and family, I’m reminded of some of the new ideas shared among recreation professionals at a revenue roundtable seminar hosted by Jeff King and Ken Ballard of Ballard*King Consultants.
- Thursday, November, 17, 2016
AB Show 2016: A Recreation Rundown
An abundance of sunshine made up for the slight chill in the air as AB Show attendees boarded the bus to University of Central Florida. Undeterred by the 7:30 am start time, the mix of tourists hailed from as far as Hawaii (5 hours behind) and Taipei (13 hours behind!) and was excited to see what Central Florida had to offer.
- Monday, November, 14, 2016
Letter from the Editor: Our Military Fitness Problem
This article appeared in the November | December issue of Athletic Business. Athletic Business is a free magazine for professionals in the athletic, fitness and recreation industry. Click here to subscribe.
- Tuesday, October, 04, 2016
Letter from the Editor: Facilities Worth Talking About
This article appeared in the October issue of Athletic Business. Athletic Business is a free magazine for professionals in the athletic, fitness and recreation industry. Click here to subscribe.
- Tuesday, August, 30, 2016
Letter from the Editor: Preparing for the Year to Come
This article appeared in the September issue of Athletic Business. Athletic Business is a free magazine for professionals in the athletic, fitness and recreation industry. Click here to subscribe.
- Thursday, July, 07, 2016
Letter from the Editor: Eat Your Veggies
This article appeared in the July/August issue of Athletic Business. Athletic Business is a free magazine for professionals in the athletic, fitness and recreation industry. Click here to subscribe.
- Monday, June, 06, 2016
Passing the Torch in Facility Design
This article appeared in the June issue of Athletic Business. Athletic Business is a free magazine for professionals in the athletic, fitness and recreation industry. Click here to subscribe.
- Thursday, May, 05, 2016
At the moment...
I can't think of a recent issue of Athletic Business that captures the feel of our industry quite as comprehensively as this one. No, we don't have any momentous, industry-changing topics this month, but what we do have speaks to the current environment of athletic, fitness and recreation professionals.
- Thursday, March, 31, 2016
Our Common Ground
This article appeared in the April issue of Athletic Business. Athletic Business is a free magazine for professionals in the athletic, fitness and recreation industry. Click here to subscribe.