Public Private Sports Partnerships: Flipping the Paradigm to Maximize Community Benefit, Leverage Local Resources and Mitigate Public Financial Risk

by the City of Phoenix, AZ for the TLG 2019 Innovation Showcase program

Dec 19, 2018

Theme: Robust External Partnerships

Phoenix flipped the paradigm of pro sports partnerships in Arizona by securing a massive private investment from a professional sports team to fund renovations of a city park located in a community that could substantially benefit from revitalization.  The project entailed a major Spring Training baseball stadium renovation, enhanced shade and landscaping, and additional community benefit – all in a city park.  Surrounded by municipalities that invested heavily in sports facilities for the resulting economic development and community activation in suburban locations, Phoenix bucked a national trend.

Faced with aging public infrastructure, limited government resources, a professional sports team with an option to relocate, and a part of town that has not seen significant investment in a long time, the city of Phoenix was staring down a variety of serious challenges.  The same community also has concerns ranging from enhancing water safety to boosting student achievement.  Could all of these community concerns be addressed through a single innovation without raising taxes or making sacrifices elsewhere? 

The answer for Phoenix was, “Yes.”  The city leveraged its partnerships to deliver long-term benefit to the inner city without abandoning a sports facility from the 1990s – a national trend. Beyond the economic and recreational benefits of pro sports, Phoenix also maintained flood control infrastructure, negotiated a quarter-century commitment to children’s water safety, and partnered for an on-site tutoring program for students in a diverse part of town where residents speak more than 50 languages.  All of this was accomplished with a substantial reduction in the city’s financial obligations. 

The partnership in Phoenix’s Maryvale community is a win-win for the city, local students and families, as well as for a pro sports partner, Major League Baseball’s (MLB) Milwaukee Brewers, who have held Spring Training in Phoenix since 1998.

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