Partnerships Fuel New Sports and Entertainment Districts

By Mary Scott Nabers, May 20, 2019

Sports and entertainment venues contribute significantly to the U.S. economy. The activities associated with both appeal to millions of people. They generate revenue, attract retail establishments and provide benefits of all types to government. Because of this, sports and entertainment districts have become very “hot items” and every city wants at least one.

In the past, most sports and/or entertainment districts were subsidized by cities or some sort of government revenue. Some still are, but the new trend is to create public-private partnerships designed to develop a district. A city may be responsible for zoning, traffic improvements, providing city property and more. But today, most vibrant sports and/or entertainment districts become a reality through a mix of private-sector capital and public contributions of some sort.

Some of these districts receive tax incentives because of the revenue that flows back to the city via sales taxes. But tax incentives have become a controversial, political topic—a topic many elected officials are eager to avoid. If there’s another way to capture funding, that is preferable to most.

Common Traits

Almost all sports and entertainment districts have mixed-use development. They also have some sort of large public facility such as a convention center, a performing arts venue or multipurpose arenas. All of these are natural anchors that attract restaurants, retail and other revenue-generating facilities. Many sports and entertainment districts attract hotels… and they all attract visitors.

Cities benefit from tourism, convention business, industry relocation efforts and economic stimulus related to job creation. Because of all this, these specialized districts are creating a robust marketplace—one that is definitely worthy of watching.

Opportunities are diverse. Development of sports and entertainment districts requires contractors and vendors of all types. Each will require construction, engineering, technology, professional services, landscaping, security, furniture and equipment of every sort.

Sports Districts to Watch

It is not just large cities that are launching the development of sports and entertainment districts. The Village of Schaumburg in Illinois, represented by Meet Chicago Northwest, recently finalized a master plan that includes a proposed 20-acre entertainment district. Officials want the existing Schaumburg Convention Center and Hotel to anchor the development but soon solicitation documents will be released for all other aspects of the project. There are plans for a multistory parking deck and a performing arts center and other public facilities that will attract restaurants, hotels and entertainment venues.

Later this year, Oklahoma City residents will be asked to vote on funding for certain capital improvements. One of the proposed projects is a cultural, entertainment and sports district. Organizers want the district to be anchored by a city-owned multipurpose outdoor entertainment venue to be used for events such as professional soccer games, concerts and exhibitions. It will be quite large and will allow the city to compete for major events. There are also plans for up to 10 soccer fields and other entertainment venues. Because the proposed district falls within an area designated as an Opportunity Zone, city officials anticipate high interest from private-sector investors.

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