What should the useful life of a sports facility be?

Residents of Orlando will be able to watch the implosion of the Amway Arena on March 25. Completed in 1989 at a cost of $110 million and paid for entirely with public funds, the arena was the home to the NBA Orlando Magic for 21 years before moving to the $500 million Amway Center.

Original Amway Arena

Should cities expect to have to replace their sports facilities every 20 years; and, if so, how should this be taken into account when they make the initial decision to build a sports facility? Other pieces of civic infrastructure (e.g., courts, libraries, museums, hospitals) are not regularly torn down after 20 years. Furthermore some of our most treasured sports venues – Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, Dodger Stadium, Madison Square Garden – have remained viable for decades longer than that.

Perhaps municipalities need to pay more attention to the lifecycle of their sports facilities when the negotiate financing and use agreements at the outset to insure that they are properly maintained and keep up to date. In the long run, such an approach is likely to save taxpayers a great deal of money.

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