As a lifelong Sturt supporter it was pleasing to see Paul Bagshaw finally inducted into the AFL Hall of Fame.
Bagshaw, otherwise known as Mr Magic, was a freakishly talented footballer who won seven premierships for the Double Blues between 1964 and 1981. He played in an amateur era when the pinnacle of South Australian football was played out on suburban ovals across Adelaide.
Today, football is a professional, national competition and most Australian cities have embraced the AFL. Over the past decade there has been a significant investment across Australia in upgrading stadiums in order to capture the economic benefits it brings.
Prior to the opening of the revamped Adelaide Oval, South Australian Centre for Economic Studies modelling suggested it would generate a $111 million annual increase in economic activity in the City of Adelaide. Earlier this year Premier Weatherill said…
“The redeveloped Adelaide Oval has become the centrepiece of the revitalisation of our city.”
A key issue is how surrounding businesses respond to capture the broader benefits. In 2014 Tourism Minister Leon Bignell took to social media to criticise restaurants and cafes in Leigh Street, Peel Street and Bank Street for failing to open before Crows versus Swans match. This week in the Messenger O’Connell Street traders were urged to prepare for the upcoming day-night test match.
The academic literature on the economic impact of sports stadia is mixed with many researchers concluding the costs of public investment outweigh the benefits. Although I haven’t seen any rigorous post-opening economic impact analysis, it clearly has had an impact on Adelaide’s confidence – and as my Macroeconomics 1 lecturer stated often…
“confidence drives investment.”
Increasingly sporting venues have become a component of the economic development strategies for communities. In the recent LG Professionals awards, the top prize for economic development was awarded to Tailem Bend for its motor sport park. The relocation of the State Aquatic Centre to Oaklands Park was a key part of Marion’s development plans for its regional centre.
Since Adelaide Oval’s redevelopment, there have been calls for upgrading Memorial Drive, developing a dedicated soccer stadium in the Parklands and bidding for the Commonwealth Games. However at some stage diminishing returns from sports investment are likely to set in.
Yet for all the winners there are losers. Across the suburbs, the former heartland of South Australia’s football glory, traditional clubs such as Glenelg are struggling for survival. The United States is dotted with examples of where sports stadium-led strategies didn’t deliver the successes promised. Cities are increasingly reluctant to bid for the Olympics lest they be saddled with massive debts.
It’s a far cry from Bagshaw’s amateur era.by