August 17, 2010
The Life of Soccer Stadiums Post World Cup
My first day of class is Friday, so I thought I'd sneak in one last summer-break-inspired post before getting down to business. On a flight to California last month my husband, Neal Anderson (Rolfer and architect-extraordinaire) sat next to ESPN soccer (er, football) writer Jeff Carlisle. Jeff had recently returned from covering the World Cup in South Africa and, among other topics, they discussed the possible post World Cup uses of all the soccer stadiums built around SA.
"It's not about whether they'll be used, it's whether they will be financially viable in terms of maintenance costs," said Phillip Harrison, a member of the South African government's National Planning Commission. "I think there is a legitimate concern about whether they'll bring in sufficient income given the fact that these areas are already financially stretched."
Officials in South Africa understand the potential risks they've brought upon themselves. They've seen abandoned Olympic venues blight Athens. They know that even Beijing has had trouble luring events to its infamous Bird's Nest stadium. But South Africa remains hopeful. For the host cities, these stadia are seen as springboards for development. But there's also the distinct danger that they could become unsustainable money pits. It's too soon to say which is the case today. But it will probably take only a few years to see if the cities are able to jump on those opportunities, or if they'll fall victim to their grandiose but potentially short-sighted World Cup investments.
Stadium projects are almost always controversial. Closer to home there's been a lot of media attention on the new stadium for an Atlanta Braves farm team in nearby Gwinnett County. It's interesting how the dynamic around stadiums seems so consistent from project to project. In a place like South Africa, with such historic inequity, it seems like a potentially more loaded problem, but the issues aren't so different in more affluent communities.
Jamie Baker Roskie
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