After inaugural comes marketing and management

Now that the inauguration of the new national stadium is over, Costa Rica finds itself in the same situation as a youth whose grandmother just presented him a high performance sports car.

There’s maintenance and insurance. These are areas at which the Costa Rican central government does not excel, not to mention marketing.

The initial indictions are not promising. The Instituto Costarricense del Deporte y la Recreación announced Friday that it was planning to obtain fire and liability insurance. This was a necessity that seems to have been forgotten until a daily newspaper brought up the issue.

Luis Eduardo Peraza Murillo, director of the sports institute, said that the firm Jotabequ that was in charge of the inaugural event had maintained short-term coverage.

For fire insurance Peraza estimated that the institute, which now controls the stadium, will have to pay about $168,000 a year for $84.6 million coverage. That is for the physical stadium and $1.6 million coverage on its two giant television screens, the institute said.

Liability insurance will range from $48,231 to $144,693 a year depending on the amount of coverage purchased. The institute is considering policies of from $3 million to $10 million.

The People’s Republic of China, of course, paid for the construction of the stadium. But now the country is on its own in supporting the facility at Parque la Sabana.

The political situation also is uncertain. President Laura Chinchilla lists a Ministerio de Deportes among the ministries in her government. Former president Óscar Arias Sánchez sent a bill to the legislature creating such an entity. But the measure has not passed yet. The new ministry, if it is formed, is expected to assume the responsibilities and the assets of the Instituto Costarricense del Deporte y la Recreación. However, there are those who want to keep the status quo. The Ministerio de Cultura y Juventud use to have Deportes in its title, but that word has been edited out.

Despite not being created, the sports ministry already has had minor financial scandals. Former minister Giselle Goyenaga resigned in early February after a flap about a trip she took to Monaco, and President Chinchilla named Carlos Benavides, the tourism minister, to handle the sports job, too.

Benavides has promoted a trust agreement with Banco Nacional de Costa Rica to handle maintenance of the stadium. The agreement is not final yet, but the bank would designate a management firm to run the stadium day-to-day. The agreement suggests that the income from the stadium would be sufficient to operate the facility.

Little has been said about marketing the stadium. The government philosophy seems to be: If we build it, they will come. However, marketing is a key element of any facility.

The majority of similar stadiums have been constructed around a sports team that calls the facility home.

This guarantees a certain number of activities a year, be it basketball, football or baseball. Except for the Costa Rican national soccer team, so far there is no other home team to keep the national stadium full. In fact, there is competition from the major soccer teams that already have their own stadiums. Estadio Ricardo Saprissa, for example, is a frequent location for musical events.

U.S. stadium operations make additional money selling the name. The national stadium most certainly will be named after Óscar Arias, and there is little chance of an “Óscar Arias-Marlboro” name being hung on the facility.

The new stadium has a full slate of activities for the initial days of its life. The Costa Rican national team takes on Argentina Tuesday, and Colombian singer Shakira performs in April. The temporary stadium management seems ready to allow private firms to do the marketing for their own events.

The Shakira concert tickets range from $30 to $126 per seat. But other events have prices as low as $12.

In addition, the 35,000-seat stadium holds many fewer spectators for musical events.

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