Forgetbuild it and they will come.
Its football fall in the United States, and that means stadium after stadium across the country full of whooping fansfaithfully congregating every weekend in the places constructed for the home team.
But in the sports and business circles of Columbus, Ohio, in the late 1990s, the issue was whetheritas in an arena complex to house a pro soccer and hockey team credited in part with revitalizing a flagging downtownwould even get built at all.
WVU sociologist Dr. Rachael Woldoff has helped chronicle those years of the central Ohio citys unlikely odyssey into the pro sports market in a book,High Stakes: Big Time Sports and Downtown Redevelopment.She co-authored the book with two colleagues from Ohio State University, Dr. Timothy Jon Curry and Dr. Kent Schwirian. It was published in June in Columbus.
That the city thats home to OSU and synonymous with the schools storied Buckeye football program could even be pegged in the first place as a viable home to hockey and soccer shows the compelling power a pro team can hold for an urban locale, Woldoff said.
And thats even in Columbus, where citizens gave a resoundingnoto a proposal that public moneyas in higher sales taxesbe used to build the downtown arena and stadium complex that is now home to the Columbus Crew Major League Soccer team and the Columbus Blue Jackets, of the National Hockey League.
If theres a market for these things (sports arenas), they will get built,said Woldoff, who began researching the book with Curry and Schwirian in 1999 while completing a Ph.D. in sociology from OSU .
High Stakesrecounts those years when Columbus was being considered just such a market, and the book recalls a city sharply divideda small, but powerful group of movers-and-shakers pushing for the arena on one side, and a diverse and organized citizensopposition group on the other.
In the end, the opposing side wonno taxes on the books to fund constructionand the complex got built, anyway, courtesy of two sources, Nationwide Insurance (90 percent), and The Dispatch Printing Co., (10 percent).
Pro football executive Lamar Hunt swooped in to fund the new MLS stadium with some $28 million of his own money, using his green to make a go of it in soccer.
The whole history of it all is worth studying, Woldoff said, from a sociological standpoint, and otherwise. Because cliché, or not, she said, the arena and the entertainment district it spawned (its simply known locally asThe Arena District) did indeed turn out to be awin-winfor Columbus.
I love going down the Arena District,she said, noting that she was just there for a visit and dinner.
She also highlights the fact that Columbus citizens across the political spectrum (Greens, Libertarians, Republicans and Democrats) were able to put aside differences to unite and form their group, Voters Against Stadium Taxes (VAST).
The coalitions grassroots work allowed them to triumph in their opposition to the tax hike.
It does give hope to other cities,she said.It shows us that its important to be vigilant with the city on how it tries to spend your money.
To orderHigh Stakes,visit the Ohio State University Press Web site atwww.ohiostatepress.org.