Establishing a Line of Scrimmage: University Football Stadiums and their Effects on Surrounding Communities

Alicia Cintron – Cintron, Revised
Meagan Ehlenz – Arizona State University

Urban universities in the United States are embedded into their neighborhoods, physically and culturally, and can create tensions particularly when a campus undergoes expansion. Yet college administrators find ways to redevelop and expand their campus footprints to ensure the institution—and its campus experience—remain competitive. One area of campus expansion lies with athletics. Campus expansion, athletics or otherwise, are often accompanied by community backlash as neighboring residents can face a range of campus-based externalities including student behavior, perceptions of quality of life issues, and gentrification. Further, one can argue that the development of new athletic facilities does not align with the mission of universities, and may stoke tensions with adjacent communities, especially when land is in short supply. Therefore, we explored the development and effects of athletic-based capital projects on university-adjacent communities. The multi-case, mixed methods study examined ten universities with new on-campus football stadiums constructed since 1998. A review of institutional policies, local reporting, and tract-level Census data found that most universities took a proactive approach to navigating the impact of the football stadium to the urban community setting. Further, with respect to post-construction neighborhood change, we did not observe clear patterns in neighborhood demographic, socioeconomic, and/or housing variables as a consequence of the addition of an on-campus football stadium.