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Four Economic Impacts of Parks and Sports Complexes- and how they can boost your local economy.

Updated: Aug 23, 2019

By Catherine Velarde. The strategic use of parks in economic development can have diverse social and economic impacts. For localities seeking to boost their economies, a new park or sports complex can serve as a catalyst for future development. Historically, the economic impacts of parks have been presented in reports which only take into consideration the expenditure invested and the revenues accrued. Newer research is shedding light on how these traditional methods have been limited in scope, and how parks can actually have a tremendous economic impact in a variety of ways. This post reviews four important economic impacts of parks and sports complexes that communities should consider:

1. Increased Visitor Spending

Parks and sports complexes infuse the local economy with both direct and incidental spending. Incidental spending includes expenditures on local hotels and restaurants, while direct spending looks at the money spent at the park or sports complex, such as admission fees and concessions. While the degree of visitor spending depends on numerous factors, the Hays Sports Complex provides an example of the economic potential. The complex is a 100-acre park, built at a cost of approximately $8 million. The projected 38 annual tournaments will bring in 25,522 yearly visitors- generating an annual direct economic impact of over $2,000,000.

2. Increased Real Estate Values

The real estate market has shown that people are willing to pay more for a property close to a park. Many studies have confirmed this finding and one review of 30 empirical studies found a 20% increase in the value of adjacent properties after the creation of a new park. One study in Portland found that, “a park within 1,500 feet of a home increased its sale price by between $845 and $2,262”. Increased property values generate proportionally higher property tax revenues. The addition of a greenbelt in a neighborhood in Boulder, CO cost approximately $1.5 million but contributed approximately $500,000 annually to the property tax revenue. Thus, the recovery of the initial costs was possible in just three years.

3. Business & Talent Attraction

Quality of life investments attract workers, which attracts employers. When a company is deciding on a new site, they take into consideration several factors including cost-of-living, talent pool, and quality of life. Companies know that to attract talent, they need to be in a desirable location. As such, localities which invest in amenities such as parks are more successful in attracting and retaining businesses and talent. In addition, new parks and facilities require individuals to run and care for them- facilitating the creation of new local jobs.

4. Social Benefits

While it can be difficult to quantify social benefits, studies have repeatedly shown that physical activity through parks improves mental and physical health, which reduces healthcare costs. People with access to parks tend to exercise more and the availability of open space improves psychological health. Beyond the numerous health benefits, parks and sports complexes are places for community activities and social bonding. A park can add to the sense of place and identity for a community, which influences resident retention.

New parks and sports complexes offer tremendous economic potential for localities seeking to increase visitor spending, increase property values, attract and retain businesses, and provide essential social benefits to residents. When considering new park or sports complex, it is essential that a community be strategic, as success depends on many factors including understanding local market demands and feasibility.

In conjunction with Parkhill, Smith, & Cooper, Pegasus has been working on economic development chapter for Horizon City’s new comprehensive plan update. As a part of the economic development strategy, Pegasus has provided recommendations for a new sports complex.


Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. (2010). The Economic Benefits of Open Space, Recreation Facilities and Walkable Community Design. Active Living Research.

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