惠州桑拿网COMMENTARY: The COVID-19 pandemic may have changed spectator sports forever

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惠州桑拿网In recent years, some sports facilities have been called “white elephants.” The term dates back to ancient Asia when a king would gift a white elephant to a subordinate he was dissatisfied with because the associated costs of keeping a white elephant significantly outweigh its value.

Today’s white elephants include sports facilities that have experienced substantial construction cost overruns, are underused or present a financial burden to taxpayers. White elephants are so common that sport facility legacies could possibly be the least promising benefit of hosting a major sport event.

Read more: (May 31, 2020) The New Reality — What will the future of sports look like?

惠州夜网However, the term has generally not been applied to sport facilities that professional sport teams call home. The pandemic has further exaggerated these white elephant characteristics of just about all large spectator sport facilities.
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For example, the stadium constructed for the 1976 Montréal Olympics — known as the Big O — had an original estimated cost of $250 million. However, it is referred to as the “Big Owe” because construction costs inflated to a $1.4-billion project.

Between 2000 and 2018, there have been substantial cost overruns for hosting the Olympic Games. Much of this can be attributed to sport facilities.
Public losses

Generally, publicly owned sport facilities have suffered far worse than those that are privately owned. Most sport facilities that were constructed for major sport events between 1996 and 2010 have experienced use and financial challenges. These often become financial burdens for taxpayers.

The problem extends to recently constructed facilities. The 2014 Sochi Olympics produced multiple sport facilities that have struggled with post-event use and cost upwards of US$399 million per year to maintain.

Meanwhile, a judge has ordered the closure of the 2016 Rio Olympic Park over safety concerns. The sport facilities began to fall into disrepair only six months after the Games concluded.

In North America, there have been over 40 professional sport facilities constructed or renovated since 2005 for the five major sport leagues. While the vast majority of these teams are privately owned, the facility projects have received US$12.6 billion in public subsidies, or 48 per cent of the cost. Whether it be new construction or renovation, these projects often experience substantial cost overruns and require ongoing maintenance that can be passed down to the taxpayer.
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As a result, public administrators and taxpayers can become skeptical of new publicly funded projects. And conflicts around sports facilities can cause owners to threaten to move or negotiate out of paying rent; once construction is completed, facilities can increase the values of sport team franchises.
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To amplify the financial repercussions, newly constructed or renovated professional sports facilities received a total of US$3.2 billion in tax breaks between 2000 and 2016.

A recent example, the privately funded SoFi stadium in Inglewood, Calif. — with a price tag of US$5 billion — sought to recoup US$100 million in tax reimbursements in its first five years of operation. Despite the capacity to hold up to 100,000 for select events, SoFi stadium opened in September 2020 to zero fans in its stands due to COVID-19.
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Pipe dreams

Underused facilities can also be a concern for stadiums and arenas built with the intention of hosting professional sports. Cities have constructed stadiums and failed to successfully attain an anchor professional sports team; examples include the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, and the Videotron Centre in Québec City.

In these cases, cities have had to be creative and reimagine purposes for their facilities. For example, while the Alamodome was built with the intention of attracting an NFL team, it has primarily been used as a convention centre, to host NBA games and the occasional college football bowl game.