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About the Sport and Urban Policy Initiative

Beth Cianfrone and Tim Kellison stand with hardhats surveying the construction site of the upcoming Mercedes-Benz Stadium

Beth Cianfrone and Tim Kellison at the construction site of the upcoming Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Learn more about the research team.

There is little doubt that sport and the spaces in which they exist are deeply tied to their cities. The allocation of millions, and sometimes billions, of public dollars toward youth sports programming, the creation and maintenance of public parks and recreational areas, and the construction or renovation of sports facilities implies that policymakers and governments, local residents, and athletic teams attribute significant value to sport. Recreational and amateur sports leagues (from youth to seniors) promote healthy living and provide outlets for community building. Meanwhile, proponents of downtown stadiums for professional sports teams and international mega events argue that sports developments produce greater tax revenues, create jobs, and drive urban renewal. Other perceived benefits of sports are largely symbolic. For example, a successful team may induce civic pride or invoke positive feelings of nostalgia among local residents. Furthermore, as one of the most recognizable structures in a cityscape, a sports stadium can serve as a structural manifestation of a city’s image or ideals.

On the other hand, the claim that stadiums provide significant economic benefits for their cities has been refuted time after time by scholars. Moreover, from an environmental perspective, sports events and facilities create huge strains on local resources. They often draw tens of thousands of people to a single site, thereby increasing traffic that contributes significantly to air pollution. Facilities like football stadiums are used infrequently, while others constructed for international mega events like the FIFA World Cup and Olympic and Paralympic Games may be abandoned altogether.

These debates are of central focus in the Sport and Urban Policy Initiative (SUPI), which serves as a forum for scientific study of the ways in which sport (including youth, amateur, recreational, collegiate, professional, and international) interacts with, contributes to, and interferes with urban spaces.

The purposes of SUPI are to:
1. Engage in and promote interdisciplinary research that examines the interrelationship between sport and urban communities.
2. Enhance public understanding of these relationships.
3. Inform policy-making.

Utilizing a variety of perspectives—social, political, and economic—SUPI research serves three principal areas of inquiry:

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