Update: global stadium construction

Cities and countries around the globe are spending hundreds of millions on stadium construction. They insist it's worth the cost.

By , Guest blogger

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    Fireworks are set off above Johannesburg's Soccer City Stadium after Spain beat Netherlands in the final match of the World Cup Soccer Tournament Sunday, July 11.
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At Target Field in Minnesota, local saloonkeepers are gushing. Scholars who study stadiums predict a longer than average “honeymooon effect” of the new stadium on attendance at Twins games. There is little in the story on displaced activity, save this observation: “City officials say more than twice as many vehicles are paying to park in government-run parking spaces surrounding Target Field, shifting from the privately owned lots that filled the Metrodome area.” Not surprising, but an interesting comment all the same. Target Field had a projected cost of $522 million, with $398 million in public funding via county sales taxes.

In the Wall Street Journal, Mark Yost lauds the ownership of the Boston Red Sox, who have poured over $200 million of their own money into Fenway Park. His account of the results is quite favorable: “What the Red Sox have done with Fenway Park should be a lesson for every sports franchise and municipality in the country.”

In South Africa, the circus has left town. Actually, it’s been nearly three weeks since a game was played in Nelspruit or Polokwane, nothern cities where there is “no rugby or soccer team within hundreds of km.” The next game may be a long way off. That there may not earn enough future revenue to pay for maintenance doesn’t seem to worry those in the spotlight. Says archbishop Tutu: “With all the negative things that are taking place in Africa, this is a superb moment for us. If we are going to have white elephants, so be it.”

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Meanwhile, anticipation will build toward the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and the script for Brazil sounds familiar: five new stadiums, seven to be renovated, and woefully behind schedule. Says FIFA’s secretary general: “”It is incredible how behind Brazil is. Many deadlines have gone by and nothing has happened. Brazil is not on the right track.” Here we go again! A Brazilian economist sees white elephants on the horizon there too, even though Brazil is a football-mad country. Brazil has its Nelspruits and Polokwanes too, and stadium construction is ever and always a political phenomenon.

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