With no hesitation, speakers during an economic development symposium endorsed multi-purpose sports and recreational facilities as positive economic contributors to the fiscal well-being of communities in which they are located.
The dominant theme: no matter the size of a community, robust recreational and/or participatory sports venues and activities have economic benefits.
Chris Presson, president of the Northern Arizona Suns professional basketball team, notes that the NAZ Suns have been based in the $35 million, 5,100 seat Prescott Valley Event Center.
He believes Prescott Valley is fortunate to have a second shot at a professional sports team with the NAZ Suns being hosted there. “You’re lucky in Prescott Valley to have the fourth largest arena among cities in the greater area – Phoenix, Las Vegas, Flagstaff and now, PV. Some communities would die for such a facility.”
Presson spoke during the Northern Economic Development Symposium at Stoneridge Resort in Prescott Valley.
Citing his more than 20 years of professional experience in sports management throughout the United States, he described how cities ranging in size from Topeka, Kansas, with a population of only 125,000; to mid-sized Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, with 650,000 potential fans for Oklahoma Thunder; to New Haven, Connecticut, itself only 650,000 population but surrounded by millions in adjacent New York and New Jersey.
“I say without hesitation that these three communities – and I can cite others – gained tremendous economic benefits because of having professional sports in their midst. I was a part of it, and I know how good promotion of crowd-pleasing sports can transform a community.”
Presson specifically referred to Oklahoma City and the difficulties the downtown area was having following the domestic terrorist bombing of the Federal Building in 1995. “It took years for substantial recovery to occur in parts of downtown. However, in 2008, when [an] NBA team relocated to Oklahoma City as the Thunder, almost immediately, transformation of the downtown area occurred. New restaurants, shops and even hotels were constructed.”
Presson envisions the same kind of transformation for Prescott Valley with the success of the NAZ Suns.
In a previous role, Presson had been the general manager of the Arizona Sundogs Hockey Team when it was in Prescott Valley from 2006 until 2014. The team filed for bankruptcy, partially as a consequence of the earlier Great Recession.
He explained he was proud to return to Prescott Valley this past fall with the NBA D League, the professional league that is a farm club for the Phoenix Suns of the NBA.
The monetary impact of sports venues goes far beyond ticket sales, he says. Presson gave examples of how in each community where he had helped manage teams, sports attendance spilled over into restaurants and bars, rental of hotel rooms for visiting teams and fans, and the purchase of merchandise.
“Most important, don’t forget job creation – not just the athletes but also the support staff. That’s everything from parking lot attendants to ticket sellers, facility maintenance personnel, coaches and their assistants, transportation. For instance, just think how much money has come into Prescott Valley because of home rentals by the basketball players, coaches and staff.”
The key to generating financial success through sports programs is aggressive and creative promotion of whatever the sports might be.
“It is critical that people in the greater community buy-in. Residents have to take pride in the teams, the players and the overall program. They need to feel it is ‘their team, their sport’ – they own it.”
He agreed that having winning teams helped boost support, but he also noted that some teams always seem to have fans, no matter what their record. He mentioned the Chicago Cubs and the Chicago White Sox in baseball, and the Green Bay Packers in football as examples of teams with fans year in and year out.
Presson said he is hoping the NAZ Suns will gain even more attention this year as they shift into the newly branded “Gatorade” League.
“Given the kind of support I perceive coming from the Fain Signature Group, which built the arena, and the Town of Prescott Valley and its residents, I see big opportunities ahead for pro sports teams in this area,” Presson concluded. QCBN
By Ray Newton, QCBN
Photo by Ray Newton