Sports-related building projects prime P3 targets
by Mary Scott Nabers,
CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc.
Americans love sports events and the nation’s weak economy has not dampened the desire or the need for functional, modern sports facilities. Whether it is college football, professional baseball or elementary school soccer, both fans and players have come to expect clean, safe and comfortable venues.
Some think public officials at the local levels of government should focus on more critical needs. Others, realizing the economic impact of sports events, believe it makes perfect sense to launch new sports-related building projects.
And that is exactly what is happening. Large sports-related construction projects are being launched throughout the country. New stadium projects are costly and some reach the $1 billion mark. Cities, universities and sports team owners cannot raise that kind of funding, so public-private partnerships are attractive options. Here are some current examples:
- The Potomac Nationals, a Class A affiliate of the Major League Washington Nationals, need a new stadium. A $70 million public-private partnership has been announced and work will begin soon on a new stadium. The facility, which will connect to a shopping center called Stonebridge at Potomac Town Center, will serve as an anchor for retail development and transportation. The Virginia Department of Transportation has committed $15 million, Roadside Development, the manager of Stonebridge, will invest $30 million and the Potomac Nationals will contribute $25 million to the project.
- A smaller project has been launched by Simmons College in Massachusetts. The college plans to renovate a run-down, state-owned sports field through a public-private partnership. Simmons, hoping to improve the community’s access to recreational space, will share the new multi-use athletic field with the surrounding community, middle schools and high schools and local Little League teams. The project, estimated to cost $5 million, will include renovations, the creation of new fields, a running track, tennis courts, river path, lighting and amenities for athletes and spectators.
- Minnesota Vikings players and fans will be able to enjoy a new stadium in 2016 because of a public-private partnership that was established to fund the $975 million downtown Minneapolis stadium. This initiative had the support of Gov. Mark Dayton, who wants to keep the Vikings in Minnesota for the next three decades.
- Bud Selig, Major League Baseball commissioner, is in talks with the Chicago Cubs and hopes to secure a public-private partnership to renovate Wrigley Field. The commissioner promises that, contingent on a full scale renovation, he will allow the Cubs to host the All-Star Game in 2014. The sports event would impact the state’s economy in an extremely positive way.
- A groundbreaking ceremony was held last week for a $13 million athletic facility at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Through a public-private partnership, the university will be able to build grandstand seating, offices and locker rooms for women’s soccer, cross country, track and field and sand volleyball teams. The project is scheduled to be completed by 2013.
- The San Francisco 49ers have announced a decision to leave Candlestick Park, their home since 1960, to play in a newly constructed stadium scheduled to open in 2014. The new stadium will carry a cost of $1.2 billion and will be the result of a public-private partnership.
Public-private partnerships (P3s) are becoming a common practice and the preferred way to fund sports-related building projects. The P3s stimulate local economies, create jobs and please sports fans, but it is incumbent on both taxpayers and public officials to monitor these efforts in a prudent way.