Urban health and stadiums: we’re hopelessly “overprescribed”

### ODT Online Sat, 6 Mar 2010
Harland speaker at Kobe conference
By Eileen Goodwin
How do you improve urban health?
Dunedin City Council chief executive Jim Harland was hand-picked by the World Health Organisation to help it come up with a strategy to do just that.
Mr Harland attended a meeting in Kobe, Japan, last week to develop a global programme on urban health equality.

Urban planning, if done correctly, could go a long way to improving residents’ health. Obvious examples were water, sewerage and rubbish services, but less obvious examples included the correct use of lighting, which reduced the risk of violent street attacks, and providing facilities such as sports stadiums and libraries, which improved mental health.

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See comment by Calvin Oaten.

Post by Elizabeth Kerr

9 Comments

Filed under Economics, Geography, Politics, Project management, Sport, Stadiums, Urban design

9 responses to “Urban health and stadiums: we’re hopelessly “overprescribed”

  1. Elizabeth

    Comment at Stadium designers justify the unjustifiable copied to this thread:

    Calvin Oaten
    2010/03/06 at 11:12am

    You have all got it wrong about stadiums and the reasons behind them. It has all become quite clear just today in the ODT. Mr Jim Harland has just been to Kobe as a selected speaker to a WHO (World Health Organisation) conference on the strategies employed to improve urban health. He says, that while local bodies in New Zealand did not deliver health services as such, it had to take into account the health and wellbeing of residents. Obvious examples were water, sewerage and rubbish services, but less obvious examples included the correct use of lighting, which reduced the risk of violent street attacks, and providing facilities such as sports stadiums and libraries, which improved mental health.
    So, there we are, the stadium is to benefit our mental health, and if the lighting is good as well, we won’t be violently attacked in it. Excellent, now I will be able to throw away all those anti-depressant tablets and go dancing off to the stadium. Thank you so much Jim, I now see why it is such a small price to pay for such a wonderful benefit. What! Did I just say that? Now where did I put those anti-depressants?

  2. kate

    When people mention the need for a stadium in Dunedin, I suggest that New Zealand is a small city (by 2010 standards) of 4 million. How many stadia do similar sized cities have? Quite surprising the actual statistics. Invercargill did the creative thing with a point of difference in its suburb of the City NZ; we have copied Suburbs A, C, W and NS. Take other facilities like hockey – Suburb Dunedin has been behind the scene for a while and has finally invested – at hockey players cost – unlike cricketers and rugby players. Rotorua has possibly beaten us to the mountain bike scene – we have a chance there but little $ to invest, but being forward focussed where have we positioned ourselves – a small capacity cricket field that suits the old game not the new game; a covered rugby field that is our point of difference? The future I think has less to do with large mass turnouts but to more constant streams like I see at the rail trail, walking groups etc. Even the younger people reflect different values than in our past. City NZ may well be overcapitalising in sport infrastructure. Suburb Dunedin, despite raising many wonderful swimmers is content not to have a state of the age swimming pool. What makes some things better than others? Shouldn’t we plan for a City NZ strategy rather than a suburb by suburb approach?

    Yes sports facilities et al can have positive impacts on health etc, but how many stadia does City Kobe have per population?

  3. Russell Garbutt

    Kate, you raise an interesting and important issue regarding what we should be doing to make ourselves different.

    Let us look for a moment at swimming which you raise as an example.

    Duncan Laing – who I am proud to have known well over many years because of my involvement in the sport – used to say that he needed to have 100 people in his squad in order to produce one or two people who would win a national title. Duncan was a person who believed in the principle of a strong base that would produce champions at the other end. What we do in most sporting codes nowadays is to mostly ignore the base and concentrate our effort on the elite end. This process – followed by rugby and rowing to name but two – is flawed and most authoritative research supports the view that the “cream rises to the top”. There may be initial successes in pouring resource to the top end, but the lack of a base will invariably lead to systemic failure. We can look at almost all winter sports to illustrate this point very well.

    So, what is the point of difference in Dunedin? You mention Invercargill.

    Invercargill have demonstrated an ability to concentrate on some sports with great success. Cycling for example. The Tour of Southland, a superb velodrome, well supported amateur clubs and coaching. Netball. Enthusiastic supporters and great commercial sponsors. A thriving club netball scene.

    What is Dunedin backing? Professional rugby – a disaster no matter how you measure it. Cricket – much better now that they are no longer saddled with working with the ORFU and Carisbrook, but still small fry with the crowds and support even from places like Napier.

    The niche market for Dunedin seems to be a strange mix between the needs of the high numbers of transitory and temporary students at our tertiary institutions and our recreation potential. Logan Park should have been top of the tree when it came to Council investment for the students, but it wasn’t because of the stadium.

    Recreation is a huge niche market yet unfulfilled. Cycling on the peninsula is still a risky and undeveloped opportunity. We have the Masters Games every two years, but no follow up despite our demographic profile. 1000 people walked some of the trails round the peninsula about the time of the Masters Games – is this not an indication of what the market is, or could be?

    The Rail Trail is a unique economic success – how is Dunedin taking advantage of that? Not particularly clear I would suggest. Not a strong link between the City and its opportunities and the experience of a few days on the trail.

    The student market is an interesting one. Students don’t want to be part of running clubs, but they want to be part of participation – hence the success of the Edgar Centre. Turn up, pay a fee, play a game. What is our role? Make sure that the facilities are there, the experiences are there, work with clubs that have the equipment and knowledge. Not too sure that the DCC could point to too many successes on that front.

  4. Phil

    I’m completely in favour of local authorities taking a leading role in promoting the health and wellbeing of their communities. In most Western European countries it is the local authorities who are charged with those duties. Funded through a share of the PAYE taxes. It’s a real no-brainer that a healthy community brings a greater financial return to that community.

    BUT, providing a new football stadium is not promoting community heath. You could try and link it to the ideal that having a top performing professional team will, in turn, encourage ordinary people to take part in that activity. But that’s a fragile link at best. And it’s also a very specialised sport, with a limited age and gender participation appeal. It would benefit the community health system about as much as funding for a new equestrian arena.

    In the areas I lived in, the local authority funded health activities that the whole community had the opportunity to actively participate in. Trying to remember, I recall floodlit jogging and walking tracks through the forests, purpose built cycleways, more community swimming pools and cross country ski trails. They funded football facilities, but they were for social and community groups. Such as we see at the Edgar Centre, which is an example of a true community health facility. And DCC does the right thing in supporting that facility financially.

    The councils also recognised the value of mental health to the community. So public libraries, adult education groups, and theatres were right at the top of the list. Not hanging off the bottom as they appear to be here.

    Invercargill have been so smart with their new indoor cycle velodrome. As well as catering for the elite, the facility is also open for the average person to come in and exercise. The community have thoroughly embraced the facility as a result. But, what would a small town know ?

    It was suggested previously on this forum that a one or 2 lane walking/jogging track be fitted around the exterior of the stadium pitch. On the artifical turf surface that is to be fitted around the perimeter. To offer some kind of community participation and ownership in the facility in a way that directly benefits the citizens. Somewhere for people to exercise under shelter during their lunch break, and somewhere safe in the evenings.

    We didn’t get a lot of support for that idea. Mr Davies, if you follow this forum (and I’m sure that you do), that’s a surefire way to win back some much needed support. For minimal cost.

    But, I insist that you name it the “what if” community exercise track.

    • Elizabeth

      Has a ring to it, Phil.
      How we wish DCC had the nous to think wholistically for community wellbeing. Even though DCC tends to good with a number of sports/leisure/park/pool facilities et al… why exactly the council is losing its way with the stadium project (without the “what if” community exercise track) perhaps we’ll never know the precise detail of – despite surmisings and disjointed pieces of puzzle. This type council gamesmanship is for fat cats prone to heart attacks.

  5. kate

    I have heard about this proposed track a number of times – but I wonder at the dimenesions of the artificial turf being big enough for such use. Has anyone the dimensions closer to hand than I do?

  6. Phil

    We’re only talking about a single all weather walking track here. Not an 8 lane Olympic running track. It could take the form of a rolled out rubber mat. Easy removed on match day. And being on the artificial turf area, there’s no chance of the precious natural turf being damaged. I don’t know what the distance is between the edge of the playing strip and the grand stand barrier. But it would have to be 3+ m to allow for the football players spilling regularly over the side lines.

    Something like that would get people out and walking in all weather, without worrying about rain, hills, or personal security. That would tick all the boxes as a community asset. No one is suggesting it be offered for free, but most people are happy to pay for something they see themselves getting a direct benefit from. Might even stretch to receiving heathcare subsidy funding.

  7. Phil

    Absolutely. It would have the spin-off bonus of making the stadium familiar to people. On their own terms. They would have a good feeling when they were there, striding out on their lunch break or on cold winter nights. And people are more likely to go back again to places they like. Even if it’s to sit and watch a football team.

    “Build something that people want to use, and they will come”.

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