Australian cities have a history of state-supported major sporting stadiums. This has intensified into the neo-liberal era dating from the 1980s with state funding of major stadium development, despite the greatly increased professionalization of the various sporting codes using the stadiums and the presumable scope for funding of stadium infrastructure by these codes. The last 20 years have seen a veritable boom in the construction of new or expanded outdoor stadiums in Australian cities, almost entirely funded from the public sector. The resulting developments are a significant element in the physical restructuring of the cities, particularly visible in new sporting precincts such as Olympic Park in Sydney, where the Olympic outdoor and indoor stadiums have led to the development of a major mixed use zone. The main purpose of this paper is to explore reasons for the significant public subsidisation of recent major stadium developments in Australia. This paper begins by outlining theoretical considerations that help to frame the arguments. It then overviews critiques of such development, principally drawing on American literature. The extent of public funding of new stadium development in Australia is then outlined, and related to the profitability of major users of the new stadiums. Following this, possible reasons for public funding of the stadiums are explored. The reasons analysed are regional economic development and attracting special events; path dependency; popular cultural identity and legitimation; and political influence. The conclusion attempts to assess the relative importance of each of these in driving the public funding of recent Australian stadium development.
The papers presented at the 2015 State of Australian Cities National Conference (SOAC 7) were organised into seven broad themes but all shared, to varying degrees, a common focus on the ways in which high quality academic research can be used in the development and implementation of policy. The relationship between empirical evidence and theoretical developments that are presented as part of our scholarly endeavours and policy processes is rarely clear and straightforward. Sometimes, perhaps because of the fortuitous alignment of various factors, our research has a direct and positive impact on policy. Sometimes it takes longer to be noticed and have influence and, sometimes, there is no little or no evidence of impact beyond or even with the academy. And while there are things we can do to promote the existence of our work and to present it in more accessible formats to people we believe to be influential, ultimately the appreciation and application of our work lies in the hands of others.
This paper is one of 164 papers that have each been reviewed and refereed by our peers and revised accordingly. While they each will have been presented briefly at the SOAC conference, they can now be read or re-read at your leisure. We hope they will stimulate further debate and discussion and form a platform for further research.
Adapted from the SOAC 7 conference proceedings introduction by Paul Burton and Heather Shearer
The State of Australian Cities (SOAC) national conferences have been held biennially since 2003 to support interdisciplinary policy-related urban research.
SOAC 7 was held in the City of Gold Coast from 9-11 December 2015. The conference featured leading national and local politicians and policy makers who shared their views on some of the current challenges facing cities and how these might be overcome in the future.