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.

Denis Farrell/AP
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.

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.”

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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