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  • Ricardo Escobar

Stadium Wars: The Struggle for Environmental Justice in Urban Development

This blog has been inspired and is a summary of Kellison, T. (Ed.). (2023). Sport Stadiums and Environmental Justice. Chapter 1, Considering Environmental Justice in Sport: Green Fields, Gray Skies. Routledge.

This book has amazing sports content, and if you like the blog, please read the book.

A boy from Mangueira favela watch fireworks over Maracana Stadium during the 2016 Olympics closing ceremony in Rio de Janeiro on August 21, 2016. / AFP / CARL DE SOUZA (Photo credit should read CARL DE SOUZA/AFP via Getty Images)

The relationship between sport and the environment is complex, with sport impacting and impacting the natural and built environments. This connection is often most evident in the construction and operation of sports stadiums, which can negatively impact the environment in their surrounding areas. Climate-related threats may also prompt sports organizations to adopt strategies to reduce their vulnerability to sports. However, the construction of sports stadiums in urban areas can also have negative impacts on communities of colour, which may disproportionately bear the burden of environmental harm and receive fewer benefits. Environmental justice activists and community organizers have worked to address these issues, and sports organizations may argue that their venues can enhance the livability and desirability of urban sports negatively impact. The concept of environmental justice can be applied to the study of sports stadiums. There are similarities in the challenges faced by environmental justice activists and those opposed to colour stadium developments.


Environmental justice is the movement and framework that addresses the disproportionate impact of environmental hazards on communities of colour. This may include exposure to air pollution, extreme heat events, and other environmental hazards. ecologicalsportsneighbourhoods justice is often described in contrast to environmental racism, which refers to the disproportionate effects of environmental pollution on racial minorities. Environmental justice can be used as a descriptive term for measurable states of affairs, a normative term for desired outcomes in the future, or a political term to name substantive problems and mobilize activism. It has its roots in activist efforts to address environmental inequitiessportssignificantcolour been influenced by historical examples of environmental justice activism, such as the Bean v. Southwestern Waste Management, Inc. case in 1979 and the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit in 1991. The movement has also been shaped by the work of scholars and practitioners who have studied and sought to address environmental justice issues.

The construction and operation of period stadiums can contribute to environmental justice issues in a number of ways. For example, the construction of new stadiums may lead to the destruction of natural habitats or the displacement of communities. The operation of these venues can also contribute to air and water pollution, as well as traffic congestion and other forms of environmental degradation. These negative impacts may disproportionately affect communities of colour, which may be more likely to live in the vicinity of coloursportssports stadiums and bear the burden of these impacts.

In response to these issues, environmental justice activists and community organizers have sought to address the negative impacts of sports stadiums on the community of sports. This may include efforts to involve these communities in the decision-making process around the construction and operation of these venuessportsessential or to advocate for policies that mitigate the negative impacts of these venues on the environment. Organizations may also seek to address environmental justice issues by implementing strategies to reduce their environmental footprint and minimize their impact on surrounding communities. However, these efforts may be met with resistance from those who stand to benefit economically from the construction and operation of sports stadiums and sportscolouror who view these venues as symbols of civic pride.


Overall, the relationship between sports and the environment is complex, and it is colour to consider Sports in this context. The construction and operation of environmental justice issues sports stadiums can negatively impact the environment and communities of colour, and it is to address these issues through the efforts of environmental justice activists and the actions of essential environmental justice issuessportscolouressentialsports organizations.


In conclusion, Sports can have negative impacts on the environment, particularly through the construction and operation of sports stadiums. These impacts may disproportionately affect communities of colour and can include habitat destruction, air and water pollution, and traffic congestion. Environmental justice activists and community organizers have sought to address these issues and advocate for policies that mitigate the negative impacts of sports stadiums on the environment. Sports organizations may also adopt strategies to reduce their environmental footprint and minimize their impact on surrounding communities. However, these efforts may be met with resistance from those who stand to benefit economically from the construction and operation of sports stadiums or who view these venues as symbols of civic pride. It is important to continue to address environmental justice issues in the context of sports and consider the ways in which sports can be used as a tool for promoting environmental and social justice.


Why Stadiums? Situating Environmental Justice in Sport


Scholars who have applied environmental justice themes to the sport context have explored the connection between sports stadiums and environmental justice. Stadiums and the events that occur within them can have direct and significant environmental risks for their surrounding neighbourhoods. Efforts by local residents and activists to block major stadium developments have played out in ways similar to the political battles that occur when siting traditional environmental hazards, such as landfills and polluting facilities, in communities of color. These issues highlight the need to consider sports stadiums' potential environmental impacts and address any inequalities that may arise.


10 Reasons why Stadiums are Environmental Hazards:

  1. Transportation emissions: The transportation of tens of thousands of fans to and from sporting events can result in significant CO2 emissions, especially if most fans arrive by personal vehicle.

  2. Waste generation: Stadiums can generate large amounts of waste, including plastic cups and individually packaged foods, which may place added strain on municipal waste management and sewage treatment systems.

  3. Resource consumption: Stadiums require large amounts of resources, including water for irrigation and electricity for lighting and audiovisual systems, which can place a burden on local resources.

  4. Traffic congestion: Sporting events can contribute to traffic congestion in host cities, leading to wear and tear on roads and greenhouse gas emissions.

  5. Local nuisances: Stadiums can create nuisances for local residents, including noise, hooliganism, and increased crime rates.

  6. Environmental impacts of construction and operation: The construction and operation of stadiums can have negative impacts on the environment, including habitat destruction, soil erosion, and the use of environmentally harmful materials.

  7. Dead zones: The empty, inactive areas surrounding stadiums on non-event days may be conducive to criminal activity due to the lack of activity.

  8. Delay in emergency services: The congestion and activity around sporting events may lead to delays in emergency services.

  9. Air pollution: The transportation and operation of sporting events may contribute to local air pollution.

  10. Water pollution: The use of fertilizers and pesticides on stadium grounds and the discharge of wastewater from stadium operations can contribute to water pollution.


Urban stadium developments can be controversial, as they can bring economic and social benefits to a city but also present environmental risks and other negative impacts to nearby neighbourhoods. This can lead to a "not in my backyard" (NIMBY) attitude among affected residents, who may oppose the placement of a stadium near their homes. Environmental justice activists may mobilize and use various strategies, such as writing official complaint letters, petitioning, campaigning, protesting, and organizing networks for collective action, to challenge the development of a stadium in their neighbourhood. However, these efforts may be met with obstacles, such as limited opportunities for participation in the decision-making process and inadequate resources to challenge powerful growth coalitions. These issues may be particularly pronounced in predominantly Black neighbourhoods, which may face additional barriers to environmental justice, such as being targeted for development due to perceived vulnerability and not being adequately compensated for the negative impacts of the development.


The politics of urban stadium developments can be complex, as they involve a range of stakeholders with potentially competing interests. On the one hand, cities may see the development of a stadium as a way to boost their image, attract tourists, and generate economic activity. On the other hand, affected neighbourhoods may resist the development due to its potential negative impacts on their communities, such as environmental risks, traffic congestion, noise, and disruption to local businesses.

Political power dynamics can also play a role in the politics of urban stadium development. Decision-making processes may be influenced by powerful growth coalitions made up of the city's business elite and political leadership, who may prioritize the economic benefits of the development over the concerns of local residents. Minority and low-income communities may also be disproportionately impacted by the development of a stadium, as they may be targeted due to perceived vulnerability and may not be adequately compensated for the negative impacts it could have on their neighbourhood.

Overall, the politics of urban stadium development involve balancing the potential benefits and costs to both the city and affected communities and ensuring that all stakeholders have a say in the decision-making process.


NOTES:

  1. In this book, the term "stadium" refers to any major sports venue, including but not limited to indoor and outdoor arenas, ballparks, and speedways.

  2. The economic costs of such venues have also been studied (Bradbury, 2022; Coates & Humphreys, 2008).

  3. In the US, these venues may disproportionately impact communities of color, including Black, Hispanic, Asian, and Indigenous communities, compared to majority White neighborhoods. It should be noted that in other countries, a variety of diverse communities may also be affected.

  4. Liu et al. (2021) conducted research on the exposure of six pollutants: carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), ozone (O3), particulate matter with diameters ≤ 2.5 and 10 µm (PM2.5 and PM10), and sulfur dioxide (SO2). These pollutants can lead to numerous health and environmental problems, such as premature death in individuals with heart or lung disease, irregular heartbeat, aggravated asthma, decreased lung function, visibility impairment, environmental damage (e.g. acidifying lakes and streams, depleting soil nutrients, damaging sensitive forests and farm crops), and materials damage (Environmental Protection Agency, 2021).

  5. More information can be found at http://www.ejnet.org/ej/principles.pdf.

  6. Market dynamics, including the Chicken or Egg and Minority Move-In Hypotheses, can play a role in the siting of hazardous facilities in predominantly minority and low-income communities (see also Mohai and Saha [2015] on "disparate siting" vs. "post-siting demographic change").

  7. Many supposed benefits of sport stadiums, such as economic growth, have been debunked by economic studies (Bradbury et al., 2022; Coates & Humphreys, 2008).

  8. However, some sports organizations and stadium operators have begun promoting environmental causes and more sustainable event planning. An example of this is discussed in Chapter 15 by Alex Porteshawver.

  9. There may be other reasons for opposition to sport stadiums, such as the public financing of construction costs or the lack of a referendum (Kellison & Mills, 2021).

  10. It should be noted that while sport stadiums are used as an example of locally undesirable land uses (LULUs) in this text, other LULUs, such as homeless shelters, drug or alcohol treatment centers, and waste disposal facilities, may have stronger arguments for their societal benefits (Been, 1993).

  11. Some neighborhoods have resisted so-called "green" LULUs due to concerns about gentrification and displacement (Anguelovski, 2016). There is a paradox in that these communities may reject environmental amenities in their neighbourhoods in order to resist gentrification but may also face negative consequences as a result (Checker, 2011).

  12. Davis, Milligan, and Walter's study focuses on Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, Centennial Olympic Stadium, and the Peoplestown and Summerhill neighbourhoods. Another chapter could be written on the nearby Vine City neighbourhood, which has a similar history and is impacted by the developments in its vicinity, including the CNN Center, the Georgia World Congress Center, and the Georgia Dome (Blau, 2019). These developments have contributed to flooding, erosion, and pollution in Vine City (Samuel, 2017).

COVID-19 Coronavirus Disease 2019

FIFA Fédération Internationale de Football Association

GHG Greenhouse gas

LEED Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design

LULU Locally unwanted land use

MLB Major League Baseball MLS Major League Soccer

NBA National Basketball Association

NFL National Football League

NHL National Hockey League

NIMBY Not in my backyard

PM2.5 Particulate matter with a diameter ≤ 2.5 µm

PM10 Particulate matter with a diameter ≤ 10 µm

WNBA Women’s National Basketball Association

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