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Hybrid work could influence the future of professional sport

This is an excerpt from Sport Business Handbook-Revised Edition, The by Richard B. Horrow,Rick Burton & Myles Schrag.

Creativity Is Born Out of Necessity

By Harry Klaff

Harry Klaff is principal and president of clients at Avison Young. He has completed more than $10 billion in real estate transactions globally in his more than 30 years of experience.

There has always been a symbiotic relationship between professional sport and business environments. As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, it will be interesting to understand the relationship between live sporting events and the future of work.

While weekly sport venues with events primarily on weekends are beginning to show resilience, in-person attendance at weeknight events could be impacted by work-from-home policies. Based on a 2021 global survey conducted by Leesman, 85 percent of respondents advised that they would prefer a hybrid work environment requiring between two and four office days per week. This will result in fewer workers during the workweek in the most concentrated areas globally. Given that office workers tend to become sport fans after work, the definable population of venue attendees could reduce proportionately over time.

This condition might either accelerate fan attraction strategies initiated by venues prior to the pandemic or advise owners and civic leaders to relocate venues to be closer to their customers. With fewer workers in central business districts, it will be necessary to rethink attendee attraction. Office, hospitality and apartment owners have been adding amenities to their assets for quite a while in the form of lounges, fitness centers, rooftop attractions, and food and beverage options. With a potentially smaller captive base, sport venues will also need to rethink “attendance magnets.”

Alternatively, leagues and teams may consider moving closer to their fans. As hybrid workers spend more time and money closer to their homes, there should be continued growth in the development of town centers, which combine residential, office, entertainment, and shopping with abundant parking and convenient access. While suburban town centers have not historically attracted sport venues, the success of The Battery Atlanta, home to Truist Park and the Atlanta Braves, should serve as a future influencer.