In the wake of new stadium and arena projects in Atlanta, Milwaukee and Arlington, Texas, Georgia State University recently launched a research center that examines the interaction between sports teams and their cities.
The Sport and Urban Policy Initiative (SUPI), run by the Atlanta-based university’s Department of Kinesiology and Health, aims not only to engage and promote research examining the sport-city relationship but also provides information on public funding and referendums of the latest projects.
The launch of the SUPI this year coincides with the 20th anniversary of the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. The following year, Olympic Stadium was transformed into Turner Field, home of the Atlanta Braves. But after only 20 years, the Braves will move into $622 million SunTrust Park next year in Cobb County, Ga., a project that has had its share of controversy.
Tim Kellison, the director of the SUPI, told the Seattle Times that for the most part, the public does not understand how a sports arena or stadium impacts a city economically.
“A team, or a business or an elected official, will talk about all the jobs and all the businesses that will come with a new stadium or a new team,” Kellison told the newspaper. “And then a week later, usually a journalist will cite that there is basically no evidence that it occurs. If you look at all the literature from economists, the sports studies and impartial analysts, they’ve been unable to identify the significant million, hundred million or billion-dollar impact for stadiums and even mega events like the Olympics.”
Perhaps the center’s most resourceful information is on its website, Stadiatrack.com, which has compiled data on new stadiums and arenas from the past 15 years. Data includes how much public funding each venue has received, public voting results and certification levels of LEED-certified sports facilities.
Public referendums are becoming less frequent — only 12 noted by the SUPI in the past 15 years — leading municipalities such as Cobb County to go forward with projects and shutting out opponents from public hearings.
“Our focus is more on the impact on communities, positive or negative,” Kellison told The Seattle Times. “We understand the benefits of these (sports venue) places and what it can do for a city and quality of life. But also, having studied this and ourselves all being sports fans, we take more of a critical approach towards examining them instead of just taking it for granted.”