I got lucky and was able to go to the Sharks game on Saturday night. It reminded me of an email I received from someone saying that the Sharks Arena (HP Pavilion) has ‘rebuilt San Jose’. I’ve heard this argument before from others trying to argue that sports arenas can be catalysts for economic growth. Based on numerous economic studies that I’ve read, I don’t believe that to be true in general. In any event, the San Jose Arena does not provide evidence of this.
The Arena was built in 1993, seventeen years ago. The area immediately around the arena was rather depressed. It is largely industrial with some housing nearby on St. John. The area was hit with flooding of the Guadalupe River in the nineties. Many of the homes on St. John, within a couple of blocks of the arena, are still boarded up. Below is a shot of Autumn St. from Google Maps looking towards the Arena (seen in the background to the left). This is typical of this industrial land uses in this area.
Here’s a shot from right behind the Arena. Where are the restaurants and bars?
You can see from Google Maps that there is no street within a few blocks of the Arena that has any new restaurants or bars. I challenge anyone to list new businesses that have cropped up near the Arena since it was built. You can also see that the main land use that something like the Arena generates is parking.
The Arena has been given credit for helping some of the businesses in downtown San Jose which is several blocks away. That is true. However, the Arena would not support these restaurants on its own. If you think about it, the Sharks gives a restaurant owner at most one or two shifts of patrons for about 45 days a year. There are another 320 days of the year. The Tied House in downtown San Jose was one of the Sharks fans favorite restaurants. It is no longer open. Without the existing downtown, these restaurants wouldn’t stand a chance. We don’t have a downtown in Fremont.
Downtown San Jose existed long before the Arena was built. Companies like Adobe located in downtown San Jose because of the talent pool in Silicon Valley not because of the Sharks. Silicon Valley is a success story that would have happened with or without the Arena. There are many studies that consistently show that sports facilities are not economic generators. There are also many stories where municipal agencies have ended up overpaying for their share of the facility (i.e. the Oakland Raiders return to Alameda County).