As stated there are two broad areas that I wish to comment on with regard to the stadium. Without a doubt the majority of the complaints or concerns surrounding the proposed stadium have been surrounding the economics of the project.
There is no doubt that the critics have issues with ratepayer burden, while others have fears that the council has stretched itself too far, while others have expressed concerns about the possibility of a recession having devastating consequences for the council.
While on the other hand, proponents are understandably bullish and while not exactly painting a picture of the streets paved with economic glory, they are understandably up beat about the prospects for the stadium. These protagonists also see the potential for peripheral development of course having a positive spin off from the development.
Whilst there has been much written about the subject of stadium development, I have endeavoured to cover those published that have a more direct relevance to our situation in Dunedin. While it is easy to see the impact that the likes of the Wellington ‘caketin’ stadium have had on the economic and social environment in Dunedin around the times like big rugby games and events such as massive concerts. We can look to the literature available to see where else this has happened, and what cautionary tales are available for us to learn from.
Although less apparent through the fog of other issues, is the possible impact of increased tourism through stadia development. Calvin Jones (2002) of the Cardiff Business School looks into the impact/costs of ‘national’ stadia development in the UK and US, where there is often huge public injection of funds, while many of these stadia are privately owned. Jones points out that in recent history, development of stadia was often linked to central and local government urban regeneration and infrastructural development. While the evidence suggests that the economic benefits of such development occurs unevenly across the population. And as rightly demonstrated, the burden of costs for development shift from team owners (the likes of the Otago Rugby Union) to the councils. Jones also discusses the national or local pride that comes from hosting major events within new stadium. As Jones points out however, linking stadium construction to tight deadlines has a negative impact on the ability of all parties to fully debate the issues, and proposals like the Stadium of New Zealand proposed for the Waterfront in Auckland have very intensive and heated debates, often at the detriment of reasoned and informed debate. As Jones suggests, if the Stadium of New Zealand proposal wasn’t so dependent on the tight time frame of the Rugby World Cup which NZ is hosting in 2011, then the potential for the project to go ahead may have been improved, as all issues of economics, design and the social would have been more roundly discussed. This is where I see a point of distinction between the Stadium NZ and Dunedin Stadium. In the Dunedin case, there has been much more time to air the initial knee jerk fears and euphoria, and more reasoned and informed debate has ensued (not to everyone’s liking on both sides).
Jones also illustrates where the likes of the Cardiff, Wembley and City of Manchester ‘national’ stadiums are linked to a physical regeneration, which through increased media attention, business development and visitation numbers, which results in economic regeneration. One of Jones’ greatest concerns is the use of public money for private gains. And while he points out that the City of Manchester stadium is the only one to take public money to stay in public hands, there is an inevitable stress between commercial imperatives and the perceived public uses for stadium. This is of importance for the Dunedin Stadium, in that there is a massive injection of public money, into what could be perceived as primarily a private stadium. One of the main concerns illustrated in the UK example is the economic impact on the existing business in the area. As the area to be designated in Dunedin is in primarily in an industrial zone adjacent to public land, there are valid concerns of land purchases etc. However the likely impact on any retail or service industries (café’s etc) within the area are probably negligible, as this area is sparsely used by classic café clientele.
As Jones points out, the comparisons to be made between private professional teams occupying publicly developed spaces in the UK and US are difficult, as ownership issues are vastly different. In the US, the massive economic clout of national professional sports teams, such as a pro Basketball, Baseball, Ice Hockey or American Football team are evident. Unlike the UK (and to a certain extent NZ) in the US a sports team is the name, and they are essentially franchises. There are numerous examples (including modern) where a team owner has relocated that franchise to another city (or state and even country – between Canada and the US) where the local council has agreed to the economic use of public money to build a facility for private use. In many cases the civic pride that accompanies a city hosting a major professional sporting team stems from the national exposure that city gains from the sporting media. There are instances where the by declining the development of stadia for private sporting teams, there has actually been a positive economic impact on the local community. There is no doubt that in Dunedin, the economic strain on the city with the go ahead of $91.4million dollars invested, has potentially compromised other developments. This is yet to be seen, while the bullish economic prospects of the development are yet to come to fruition.
While the prospect of ‘franchise flight’ is slim to non-existent in our case, in the US this is of major concern when the debate of public money for private stadiums and democratic accountability are discussed. However, in New Zealand, ‘event flight’ is evident and a potential issue for Dunedin. The most recent example of ‘event flight’ has been Christchurch securing the rights to host the most Auckland of institutions the Ellerslie Flower Show, which of course will now need a new name. In the case of the stadium of Dunedin, it should possibly the case of which event(s) should we look at hosting or stealing from other regions. One could suggest the magnificent growing and presentation possibilities of a fully enclosed stadium, like ours could suggest that the National flower show could migrate even further south?
On the whole, Jones is cautionary in his views of the se of public money for large scale economic and sporting developments. However given the obvious points of difference between team ownership and stadia location and development between NZ and the US in particular, many of his concerns seem to be of little relevance to US.
Other studies such as that by Sullivan (1998), also point to the link between stadium development and civic pride, which one could argue is of major importance in the development of the stadium of Dunedin. Although less directly relevant to NZ, Zimbalist (1998), also points out the competitive nature of hosting a major league sports team, the civic pride which ensues and the competitive games that are played off between cities competing for sports franchises. Although in the future it is possible that Dunedin could host another professional sports team which would require the use of the stadium, this is possibly too far off to need serious consideration at the present.
More recently the economic impact of stadium development as discussed by Santo (2005) issues some precautionary notes, while extolling the positive impacts on the process of stadium construction. As Santo points out“ the recent wave of stadium construction has been marked by a migration of such facilities back to the urban core with an emphasis on revitalization and tourist appeal.” This is of course of more relevance to the Dunedin case, with the potential for tourist dollars, coupled with the economic and physical development of this area not too far from the heart of the city, particularly as it is located on the waterfront between the Port and the City (on a major road and rail link).
This is where the design of the stadium comes into question. As Santo states “it is not the sport activity, but the context which is key. Theoretically, a retro-style ballpark in a downtown or retail setting is likely to attract visitors from a wider area than its more utilitarian suburban counterpart, and is likely to induce longer stays and greater ancillary spending. If so, it is plausible that the new generation of sports facilities would have more favorable economic impacts than their predecessors”. Although the Dunedin Stadium thus far has been designed by possibly the leading designers of stadia globally HOCSports, there is no question that the likes of the gaudy ‘retro’ baseball stadiums which have been constructed in the US. Thus the likelihood that the Dunedin stadium would foster longer stays than say the now defunct National Stadium on the Waterfront in Auckland, is negligible. It could be argued however that the utilitarian nature of the events housed within the stadium will foster the longer of stays within the city for sports or event tourists. Santo goes on to apply economic models to this thinking on stadium design.
As Santo states, previous economic modeling indicate (as seen in Jones 2002) that the economic impact of sports stadium development is negligible and often seen negatively. However as Santo states, these models are based on economic assumptions of very different economic times on buildings of vastly different design, “The stadiums of the recent construction boom have been built amidst a very different context than those of the previous generation.” Santo argues that new thinking must be applied to economic modeling of sports stadiums constructed presently.
Jones, Calvin. Public Cost for Private Gain? Recent and Proposed ‘national’ stadium developments in the UK, and commonalities with North America. AREA (2002) 34.2. 160-170
Sullivan, N.J. Major League Baseball and American Cities: A Strategy for Playing the Stadium Game. Policy Studies Review Spring 1998, 15.1
Santo, C. The Economic Impact of Sports Stadiums: Recasting the analysis in Context. Journal of Urban Affairs. Vol. 27/No. 2/2005