As cities have come to the realization that using public funding to build stadiums and arenas in isolated locations surrounded by parking lots is a losing proposition (and started tightening purse strings), team owners have begun building downtown. They’ve surrounded their new venues with mixed-use real-estate projects capable of servicing the public debt. Retail, office and high-end residential properties now surround urban venues nationwide (at least 10 cities have followed this model); stimulating the local economy and rejuvenating downtrodden parts of cities, as no stand-alone facility ever did. The trend mirrors a greater American urban renaissance (started in ’10), where for the first time in 60 years more people are moving to the city than the suburbs, driving the country’s economic growth.
Fan Marino: Kansas City started this trend with the opening of the Sprint Center in 2007, and is seen as a model of its success; ironic, since no professional franchise calls the venue home (it does host some Big 12 sporting events). Of course, that wasn’t the plan. The Oak View Group built the arena, promising to land a winter sports franchise within 2 years. The planned relocation (Pittsburgh Penguins) fell through and no local ownership group (with interest in purchasing an NHL or NBA team) has emerged since.
Howie Long-Short: The Sprint Center has certainly had an impact on revitalizing the Power & Light district (streetcar line, population up 160%, tax revenue soared), but the project still has its detractors. Dan Coffrin, a former city councilman, called the deal reckless; arguing the city issued debt without a safety cushion. He wasn’t wrong. In 2018, $17 million in tax revenue will be required to service the debt, while the district will only produce $6 million.
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