Do professional sports fuel gentrification? | The Tylt

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Do professional sports fuel gentrification?
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Gentrification usually begins when older cities are revitalized by outsiders, encouraging new residents to live in a refreshed and pricier setting, driving current residents out of their communities. Some say that in addition to sleek new housing and restaurants, sports arenas can also attract newbies and fuel the process of displacing current residents. Others feel gentrification is a beast unto itself; sports enliven communities rather than tear them apart. What do you think?

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According to Merriam-Webster, gentrification is defined as:

The process of repairing and rebuilding homes and businesses in a deteriorating area (such as an urban neighborhood) accompanied by an influx of middle-class or affluent people and that often results in the displacement of earlier, usually poorer residents
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Southeast Washington, D.C., known as "the most economically disadvantaged neighborhood of the nation's capital," is the new home to a $55 million sports arena. The Entertainment and Sports Arena will host the NBA G-League team, the Capital City Go-Go. 

Understandably so, residents are split when it comes to the arena and what it will mean for their neighborhood's future. Bleacher Report's Master Tesfatsion writes:

[Congress Heights Commissioner Mike Austin] is one of many residents who are conflicted about the arena. Amenities that come with such an investment, like new jobs and chains like Starbucks and Chipotle, are sure to follow. The question, he says, is a matter of who will reap the benefits. He has seen enough black people get displaced in D.C. over the years to make him skeptical.
It's not just the classic signs of gentrification that have black residents conflicted about the incoming Go-Go, who will begin their inaugural season Saturday. It's the gentrification of black D.C.'s cultural heritage: The name Go-Go pays tribute to the funk-, blues-, soul- and salsa-inspired music genre created by the District's black residents, even as the District systematically dismantled Go-Go culture over the last two decades.
Now that the culture is finally receiving recognition—through a basketball organization instead of the genre's founders, influencers and participants—black D.C. residents are torn about whether they should fully embrace it. When does cultural appreciation become cultural appropriation in sports?

New arenas like this one can certainly invigorate a community, but at what cost? Tesfatsion begs the question: if development means pushing current residents out, is it the kind of development a community needs? 

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The expansion of Major League Soccer in the U.S. has also been blamed for gentrifying neighborhoods. A new league means new arenas, new fans and a need for entertainment in surrounding areas for before games begin and after they end. 

The Guardian paints a picture of an independently-owned, "archetypal" barbershop stuck in the shadow cast by the brand-new Orlando City Stadium. John Henry, or "J," started working at the barbershop in 1991, giving him a decades-long perspective on how the surrounding community has evolved. According to Henry, professional sports bring both good and bad:

'There are always going to be some negatives in a situation like this. It is very much bittersweet,' he says. 'The sweet part is that people who don’t [normally] come to this neighborhood are finding out about us and we’re getting more exposure and support. On game days, there is now a huge business in car parking and people are making money.
'The bitter part is the uncertainty for business owners like myself. We don’t know what our future will be. With property increasing, some owners may want to sell, and then where will J Henry’s be in future?'

But for Henry, ultimately, the bad outweighs the good: 

'I used to be able to promise my son that, one day, this business would be his,' he says. 'Now I can’t make that promise anymore. To my mind, it is more negative than positive, but you can’t focus on it. I love having a soccer team as neighbors, but that might not be enough to keep me in business.'
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But for some new arenas, the opposite is the case. Atlanta is home to the brand-new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, a $200 million investment and home to both the NFL's Atlanta Falcons and MLS's Atlanta United. Arthur Blank, the co-founder of Home Depot, owns the Falcons franchise and has been very intentional about making sure the new stadium is used as a philanthropic and developmental tool. 

According to The New York Times's Ken Belson, Mercedes-Benz Stadium is located in a "chasm between rich and poor" in the Atlanta community. Blank chose to take advantage of this perch to encourage beneficial change for everyone, rather than push poorer communities out of their homes. 

While some owners try to offset these problems by donating money to local charities or buying land to make way for new homes and shops, Blank wants to rebuild the neighborhoods where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Julian Bond and other civil rights leaders once lived.
So far, his foundation, the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, has donated $20 million to pay for, among other things, a job training center called Westside Works, new parks, a youth leadership program called American Explorers, and homes for police officers willing to live in the area. Blank’s investments have been matched by groups including Invest Atlanta, the city’s development arm, more than doubling the amount raised.
'Sometimes, these stadiums and facilities are built and not much happens around them; stuff takes place on the inside but not much on the outside,' said Blank, a co-founder of Home Depot. 'It’s not about how many buildings you build, but how you change the quality of life of the people living there.'
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Even in Washington D.C., residents are hopeful that the Entertainment and Sports Arena will bring new life to the city–for the benefit of current residents, rather than new ones. 

Washington City Paper's Kelyn Soong reported on the arena's ribbon-cutting ceremony. A number of public officials spoke, including Ward 8 Councilmember Trayon White:

'For too long, people did not want to invest in our community,' White said. "'If you walk along MLK [Avenue], and Malcolm X [Boulevard], you see an entirely different community, those who are not engaged, disconnected, that need an opportunity. As we build these big buildings in our communities, we must also remember to build on our people. I know [Mayor Muriel Bowser] always make fun of me for saying that, but we must always remember to build on the people that were here, the indigenous people of Washington, D.C.'

Another resident, Tierra Ruffin-Pratt, who grew up near Ward 8 said: 

'I think it's big. I think it'll bring a lot more exposure and a lot more positivity to this area,' she says. 'I know all about Ward 8 and Southeast D.C. People say it's a place you don't want to go. So being able to bring this arena here and promote a lot of positivity and professionalism, with a professional basketball team, it's going to be big for the city.'

Gentrification is having a massive impact on residents around the country, and it can be caused by everything ranging from company headquarters to property investment. 

Professional sports and their infrastructure certainly have that same potential, but unlike many other businesses, sports bring communities together. As teams expand, it is essential that the organizations behind them keep this goal in mind. So long as they do, professional sports will help communities stand firm in their roots, rather than create new barriers among them. 

FINAL RESULTS
Culture
Do professional sports fuel gentrification?
A festive crown for the winner
#SportsDontPlayARole
#SportsGentrify