Buildings and Places, Social Infrastructure, Sports and Leisure, Sustainable Legacies

In 2021 we launched Sustainable Legacies, our environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategy, a response to the acceleration of imbalances that we have seen in recent years. A key part of the solution to these global challenges is Social Infrastructure: sustainable, equitable, people-centric solutions that focus on the environment. Click here to learn more.

Jon Niemuth is our Director of Sports for the Americas. Inspired by his passion for large-scale projects, Jon went on to achieve a dual degree in architecture and urban design and urban policy planning from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, before starting his transformational career.

How do you believe sports infrastructure creates opportunities for social inclusion?

As the industry around sports infrastructure has developed, we have witnessed a huge new generation of vibrant careers that are open to everyone. This includes broadcast technicians, franchisors, performers, and so many more. It’s great to see the increase in scholarships creating accessible career opportunities for people from underprivileged communities to get into the industry.

Beyond jobs, fan social inclusion has historically been a key issue as sports infrastructure has tended to focus on VIP customers, with high ticket prices and transport limitations also keeping sports infrastructure inaccessible. But now technology has started to break down these barriers with the introduction of streaming services and affordable data plans that allow more individuals to follow a team and be part of a more socially inclusive fan community.

In the United States we are increasingly seeing the reintroduction of major venues into urban cores, drawing populations back into these neighborhoods from all across this more inclusive fan community. It isn’t just about mitigating negative impacts on the community, but about exploring opportunities to give back and leave an area better than when it was found.

How do you envision the future of sports infrastructure being a year-round inclusive community asset?

I believe we are coming to a key generational moment for the future of sports infrastructure. For so long, we were only thinking of the sports purpose, but the next generation is using creativity and innovation to reenvisage sports infrastructure as an all-year-round inclusive community asset. It’s a balance of understanding the fit-for-purpose elements, which will have limited uses, and looking wider at other areas which could be used for community activities.

We are witnessing individuals and key stakeholders understanding the conversation more and challenging owners and designers to do better. It is an exciting time, and I’m optimistic the future will lead to many more multi-purpose, community-focused sports projects.

Tell us about a project that has made a difference in your local community.

A meaningful example for me is the redevelopment of Kansas City’s sports arena. The arena was repositioned into the core of Kansas City, creating momentum and bringing energy back around downtown. This drew different people from all over the city back downtown to explore the new facilities. Over the past 25 years Kansas City has completely transformed because the arena served as a catalyst for a whole series of live, work, play investments. It is phenomenal to witness sports and entertainment investments heal a city, especially in my local community.

Originally published Jun 3, 2022

Author: Jon Niemuth