We all know the catalytic force of sports and their ability to bring communities together and take them to another level. That’s why so many communities and private developers across the country are partnering to develop sports-anchored commercial developments and hailing the events, visitors, jobs, and tax growth that come with them.   

Doing so, obviously, takes commitment and resources. And, as you know, that’s sometimes (always?) in short supply. So how do you convince your community’s stakeholders that investing in a sports-anchored commercial development makes sense? It starts with what we call a “Value Proposition.” It’s the compelling justification for the project. It’s the project’s “why.” And when it comes to sports-anchored developments, there are lots of them. Let’s explore a few.  

Unite The Community 

As we noted up front, sports has a unique power to unite communities. It gives residents a reason to gather and cheer and celebrate. It empowers diversity and inclusion by attracting people from all walks of life and welcoming them into the same space for a fun, shared experience. A versatile, publicly owned sports venue is the community’s “living room.” That’s why it’s such a valuable asset to communities across the country. Because good things happen when we come together.  

Impact The Economy 

There’s an old saying that goes, “If it makes dollars, it makes sense.” And with the economic stimulus and ROI it provides and the jobs it sustains and creates, sports-anchored commercial development makes sense.  

The economic impact of sports tourism, including amateur and youth sports, is staggering. According to the Sports Events and Tourism Association’s State of the Industry Report, the sports tourism sector’s total economic impact in 2021 alone was $91.8 billion, including direct spending of $39.7 billion in industries like hospitality and retail, supporting 635,000 full-time and part-time jobs and generating $12.9 billion in taxes. Who wouldn’t like a piece of that pie?  

Retain Businesses & Talent  

Businesses want to be where the people are. Whether it’s customers or employees, those are the resources they most need to mine. So when you bring people downtown, you give local businesses exactly what they need. And when those customers keep coming back, those businesses have plenty of incentive to open, stay, and reinvest.

Minneapolis is a great example. In just 15 months after the city opened Target Field, $36 million in new construction permits were issued within 5 blocks of the stadium and occupancy in nearby downtown hotels was up 19.4 percent. That attraction is one of a community sports venue’s biggest benefits.  

It doesn’t hurt when the fans who flock to those venues and stadiums are young, either. According to AdAge, emerging sports like soccer are “followed by a fast-growing, diverse, tech-savvy, passionate young supporter culture.” Passionate, educated young professionals are just the kinds of employees those neighboring businesses are looking to attract and cities are happy to have calling their communities home.  

Attract Big Events 

Sports venues aren’t just for sports anymore. Those that are designed with multiple uses in mind are hosting all kinds of major events now. From concerts to festivals, “venues are hosting as many gigs as they do sporting events.” Multi-day festivals – both musical and cultural – are incredibly popular each summer. And there’s a pretty good chance that if you build it, they will come. In 2019, 179 million people traveled to out-of-town events. After a predictably down year during the COVID-19 pandemic, it quickly rebounded to 175 million in 2021. Those are visitors – and dollars – you’d love to welcome to town.  

Build A Brand 

As much as anything else, sports can give communities an identity. Or, conversely and perhaps ideally, they can reflect the identity of the community they inhabit. When the MLS’ Columbus Crew was founded, they called themselves “America’s Hardest Working Team.” When it came time to build their home – the first soccer-specific stadium in the United States – it was designed with exposed steel beams to reflect that ethos. The team created a brand that showcased the community’s values. Both benefited and both have thrived.  

Sports also give communities a platform. They give cities an opportunity to promote themselves as a destination. They turn visitors into fans, whose rave reviews lure more visitors and create even more fans. Those fans draw the attention of leagues and teams looking for new homes. And those teams bring media attention, which opens up a whole world of opportunities.  

The United Soccer League recently announced a landmark multi-year media rights agreement with CBS Sports that will see 100 USL matches aired annually on CBS’ broadcast and streaming platforms – the first-ever network television partnership for second-division soccer in the U.S. It’s a league that’s currently expanding in midsize markets across the country, and those markets will soon be enjoying airtime across the world.  

These are just a few of the reasons why sports-anchored commercial developments are such a valuable investment for all kinds of communities. Your value proposition – your “why” – may include some, all, or none of these. But finding that value proposition and evangelizing it are the keys to getting the interest and resources you need to become the destination your community deserves to be.