Your Kid’s Not Going Pro

A Youth Sports Blog

The youth sports stadium game

with 20 comments

If you thought the competition to build massive sports stadiums was just for cities that were, well, cities, then you are correct. As long as you think of those stadiums only for professional teams. Smaller towns and suburbs are drooling to replicate the success of Blaine, Minn.’s National Sports Center, or merely trying to attract big tournaments that fill hotel rooms and restaurants with rude kids running wild (at least that’s what I’ve seen and heard in the hotels I’ve stayed in that were hosting kids playing youth tournaments).

For example, the State Journal-Register of Springfield, Ill., reports in today’s edition that a $60 million youth sports facility is under consideration. It would have, as the paper notes, “a 3,000-seat baseball stadium, soccer fields and a football/track facility.” That would make it the biggest construction project in Springfield since the monorail.

If $60 million in a city of about 117,000 sounds like a lot, how does $60 million in a suburb of about 24,000 grab you?

That’s the pricetag Westfield, Ind., is putting on its proposed complex, which would be located a 5K run from where I’m sitting now (my parents’ house in Carmel, another north Indianapolis suburb.) The complex would consist of a 4,000-seat multipurpose outdoor stadium (which would also be used to attract an independent minor-league pro baseball team), indoor sports facilities, and baseball, soccer, softball and lacrosse fields. It would be part of a $1.5 billion development with retail, housing, hotels and a golf course already there, money to be raised in a public-private partnership.

Wow.

The youth sports stadium game is like the big-time stadium game in that burgs known for little or nothing (as Indianapolis was when it beefed up its Olympic sports facilities and filched the Colts in the 1980s) are using the facilities to make some sort of a name for itself. For example, Westfield, known nowhere outside of Indianapolis and barely known within it, wants to be known as “the Family Sports Capital of America.”

As Westfield Mayor Andy Cook (no relation to your humble blogger) told Indianapolis TV station WTHR: “To our knowledge, there are two there facilities similar to this. One is in suburban Minneapolis. The other is in Disney World.”

See, there’s Blaine lust again. As for Disney World, apparently Cook is hopeful that someday a Super Bowl winner will yell, “I’m goin’ to Westfield!”

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Come in to Westfield, the Happiest Place on Earth.

I must admit, I admire Westfield’s gigantic civic nards in proposing this project, especially in this economy, even though Westfield is a fast-growing burg.

There are plenty of stories out there bragging about how much money youth sports is bringing to various small towns. If you need an exact number, you can always call someone like Patrick Rishe, an economic professor at Webster University in St. Louis, who is making a side business assessing an economic impact number just like people used to do for pro sports stadium projects.

Of course, a lot of those pro sports numbers are in serious dispute, like this report in the Philadelphia Inquirer (via The Sports Economist) states:

In a just-released article in the Journal of Sport and Social Issues, my colleagues and I [Rick Eckstein, a Villanova sociology professor] studied media coverage of 23 publicly financed stadium initiatives in 16 different cities, including Philadelphia. We found that the mainstream media in most of these cities is noticeably biased toward supporting publicly financed stadiums, which has a significant impact on the initiatives’ success.

This bias usually takes the form of uncritically parroting stadium proponents’ economic and social promises, quoting stadium supporters far more frequently than stadium opponents, overlooking the numerous objective academic studies on the topic, and failing to independently examine the multitude of failed stadium-centered promises throughout the country, especially those in oft-cited “success cities” such as Denver and Cleveland.

The argument for youth sports stadiums over pro sports stadiums is that they’re cheaper to build, and that they attract almost all out-of-towners rather than taking money from one local entertainment venue to another. The argument against is that given the relative size of the towns, the money being spent is the equivalent of what a big city pays for a big stadium. And you can’t assume everyone will stay in your town’s hotels, or spend as much money as you think they will spend. Plus, it seems slightly creepy to base a major part of your city’s economy on kids playing games.

However, it’s doubtful this (fools?) gold rush is ending anytime soon. To symbolize where we’re going, Vero Beach, Fla., is looking at converting Dodgertown, the old Los Angeles Dodgers spring training site, into a youth sports complex.

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20 Responses

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  1. [...] It would seem like losing sports seems like a small price to pay if academic programs are otherwise saved. And as far as the $2 billion in cuts, the organization doesn’t note its overall starting base, nor how the cuts compare to paring of academic programs. Certainly, Up2Us, given its membership, has a vested interest in spreading the word that things are dire. And, hey, if things are so bad, why are so many communities still making grand plans for youth sports complexes? [...]

  2. [...] even as poorer families are choking on school athletic cuts and pay-to-play for activities — are falling all over themselves to try to build new, spectacular youth sports facilities. It’s a way for small cities that can’t build a stadium to attract an NFL team to get a [...]

  3. i really whan to go but i dont have the money to be in a happy place like that:(

    dachya bray

    December 14, 2009 at 3:46 pm

  4. [...] But given that fact only 35.6% of all California 9th graders can pass the fitness minimums, the large amounts of money spent on youth sports facilities, and how few actually make it to elite levels, there needs to be a better return on fitness for all [...]

  5. [...] All you have to do is spend a little time with this here blog to see how youth sports victimizes kids with molestation, hazing, injury, balls thrown violently to the head and complicated relationships with parents that will keep them in therapy for years. All in the name of getting one of those extremely elusive college scholarships and an even more extremely elusive pro career, all while holding up the sagging economy through recession-proof activities. [...]

  6. [...] written about it here before (and before that), and I’ll write about it again, because cities keep doing it:  using youth [...]

  7. my kids love to go disneyworld, i think every kid would love to go there.”`

    UV Paint :

    October 27, 2010 at 10:04 pm

  8. all of my kids enjoy the park and rides in Disney World, disney really knows how to please kids *,,

    Breakfast Nook ·

    November 14, 2010 at 4:20 pm

  9. there is no doubt about that…

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  12. [...] regional tournaments. It — and the environs of Williamsport, Pa. — are not unique in relying on the good will of parents, children and sports to make a lot of money. But Little League is the most obvious about trying to pretend it’s all about athletic [...]

  13. [...] regional tournaments. It — and the environs of Williamsport, Pa. — are not unique in relying on the good will of parents, children and sports to make a lot of money. But Little League is the most obvious about trying to pretend it’s all about athletic [...]

  14. [...] written before about even the smallest burgs pushing large youth sports developments to take advantage of the growth of travel and elite team tournaments, and suck up the dollars of [...]

  15. […] Ich habe über diese Tendenz für Jahre geschrieben, und sie zeigt keine Zeichen der Verlangsamung. Diese gegenwärtige Explosion fing mit der Realisierung während der Tiefen des 2007-09 (offiziellen) Rückganges, dass die Ausgabe auf Jugendsport schien, konjunktursicher zu sein, mit den Eltern an, die eifrig sind, Geld für Reise und Elite-Teams auszugeben, die, es (oder wurden geführt, um zu glauben war) notwendig war, ihr Kind zu verschaffen eine Collegestipendiumgelegenheit oder bloß einer fairen Chance, das Highschool Team zu machen. Wirklich hat der Sportanlagen Advisory, eine Firma, die den Bau solcher Anlagen vermarktet, Ihres Kindes bezogen, das nicht Pro geht, seinen Fall zu machen, dass elterliche Paranoia über das Zahlen für College eine große Gelegenheit darstellt, Anlagen zu errichten (mit seiner Hilfe) die die Teams anziehen, die von den Eltern’ Furcht getankt werden, die, ihre Kinder haben eine Zukunft „von stagnierenden Löhnen und von abgestumpften Karrieren.“ […]

  16. […] I’ve written about this trend for years, and it shows no signs of slowing down. This current burst began with the realization during the depths of the 2007-09 (official) downturn that spending on youth sports appeared to be recession-proof, with parents eager to spend money on travel and elite teams it was (or were led to believe was) necessary to procure their child a college scholarship opportunity, or merely a fighting chance to make the high school team. Actually, the Sports Facilities Advisory, a company that markets the construction of such facilities, has referenced Your Kid’s Not Going Pro to make its case that parental paranoia about paying for college represents a great opportunity to build facilities (with its help) that attract teams fueled by parents’ fear their children have a future of “stagnant wages and blunted careers.” […]

  17. […] I’ve written about this trend for years, and it shows no signs of slowing down. This current burst began with the realization during the depths of the 2007-09 (official) downturn that spending on youth sports appeared to be recession-proof, with parents eager to spend money on travel and elite teams it was (or were led to believe was) necessary to procure their child a college scholarship opportunity, or merely a fighting chance to make the high school team. Actually, the Sports Facilities Advisory, a company that markets the construction of such facilities, has referenced Your Kid’s Not Going Pro to make its case that parental paranoia about paying for college represents a great opportunity to build facilities (with its help) that attract teams fueled by parents’ fear their children have a future of “stagnant wages and blunted careers.” […]

  18. […] I’ve written about this trend for years, and it shows no signs of slowing down. This current burst began with the realization during the depths of the 2007-09 (official) downturn that spending on youth sports appeared to be recession-proof, with parents eager to spend money on travel and elite teams it was (or were led to believe was) necessary to procure their child a college scholarship opportunity, or merely a fighting chance to make the high school team. Actually, the Sports Facilities Advisory, a company that markets the construction of such facilities, has referenced Your Kid’s Not Going Pro to make its case that parental paranoia about paying for college represents a great opportunity to build facilities (with its help) that attract teams fueled by parents’ fear their children have a future of “stagnant wages and blunted careers.” […]

  19. […] I’ve written about this trend for years, and it shows no signs of slowing down. This current burst began with the realization during the depths of the 2007-09 (official) downturn that spending on youth sports appeared to be recession-proof, with parents eager to spend money on travel and elite teams it was (or were led to believe was) necessary to procure their child a college scholarship opportunity, or merely a fighting chance to make the high school team. Actually, the Sports Facilities Advisory, a company that markets the construction of such facilities, has referenced Your Kid’s Not Going Pro to make its case that parental paranoia about paying for college represents a great opportunity to build facilities (with its help) that attract teams fueled by parents’ fear their children have a future of “stagnant wages and blunted careers.” […]

  20. […] I’ve written about this trend for years, and it shows no signs of slowing down. This current burst began with the realization during the depths of the 2007-09 (official) downturn that spending on youth sports appeared to be recession-proof, with parents eager to spend money on travel and elite teams it was (or were led to believe was) necessary to procure their child a college scholarship opportunity, or merely a fighting chance to make the high school team. Actually, the Sports Facilities Advisory, a company that markets the construction of such facilities, has referenced Your Kid’s Not Going Pro to make its case that parental paranoia about paying for college represents a great opportunity to build facilities (with its help) that attract teams fueled by parents’ fear their children have a future of “stagnant wages and blunted careers.” […]


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