First European capital of sport conference sport & urban development: Book of abstracts pages:40-40
Sport and Urban Development Congress location:Rotterdam, The Netherlands date:9-11 November 2005
In many cities throughout Europe sport has been used as a tool for economic regeneration. In the case of Ghent we can ask ourselves the question whether that strategy is or is going to be used. Ghent already is an important universitycentre, harbour, tourist centre and industrial city and the new sport infrastructure, such as an indoor athletic arena, a indoor velodrome, a top sports school and hotel and in the nearby future the “Artevelde football stadium” are located in areas that didn’t need any form of regeneration. The reason for building a new football stadium can be explained by looking at the location of the old stadium. The “Ottenstadium” is located in a densely populated neighbourhood and the local residents have to face negative spill over effects. The city of Ghent is the owner of the grounds and classified the stadium as a locally unwanted land use. The local government already bought the old stadium for €3.5 million euro and will convert it into a new residential neighbourhood. The result is the creation of a public-private partnership for the relocation of the professional football club KAA Ghent to a new stadium located on a site owned by the city. The new stadium will have a capacity of 20,000 seats(old stadium 13,000) and will be located on a plot near the main highways. The club and Ghent are placing this project in a growing strategy of KAA Ghent and it can be considered as a form of community self-esteem, creating a local identity and topophilia. The club had an average attendance of 8,000 and a lot of football fans have been taking the main highway E40 to Bruges (FC Brugge) and to a lesser extent to Brussels (SC Anderlecht).The KAA Chairman aims to increase attendances to a stable 11,000 to 12,000. The place of Ghent in the urban system is that of a regional city with high centrality. This means that consumer-oriented services with a high threshold, such as a professional football team, reach heir threshold in the city. In the case of professional football a functional substitution has taken place and the topteam is located in Bruges. The service area of Bruges reaches almost up to Ghent and the E40 highway reduces the time-distance. The new location of the stadium is near the main highway and away from Lokeren, the location of another first division team with which KAA at one time wanted to merge. Dejonghe (2001) already noticed that travelling “across” a city to visit a stadium is a psychological barrier , which means that in case of a merger the fans of SC Lokeren will ignore the new team. The location of the Arteveldestadium is also away from their local fan base and can in the long term result in declining attendances. The club takes examples form Holland and the United Kingdom to show the positive results of a new stadium on attendances, but they are forgetting one thing namely that most of those clubs were playing in a sold-out stadium before their enlargement or relocation.