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Looking forward to 2010: top trends for the coming year

Looking back, it's clear that 2009 was a fantastic year for ballparks old and new. But what will the future hold? Here are our top trends for 2010 and beyond.

It was a record-setting year for new ballparks, with many, many new and renovated facilities opening on the major-league, minor-league and college levels. Given the economy, it may be many years until we see as many new ballparks opening in a single season.

Yet the abundance of riches won't continue, as we're seeing a definite slowdown in spending on ballparks. Given the economy, that's not a surprise. But money will continue to be spent on ballparks, and in this trends piece we explain where. 

Renovations are in; new ballparks are out. Municipalities are tightening their belts, and we may not see many new ballparks approved in the next 12 months. What we will see, however, is an increased emphasis on ballpark renovations. A renovation — whether small or big — is a relatively easy way for a team to increase revenues and provide a fresh look to an older facility. It's also easier to sell a skeptical public on a renovation versus a new facility. 

The college segment will continue to expand. Despite the slowdown in the economy, money continues to flow into college coffers. We expect that money to be spent on college facilities, as leading programs — especially in the South and the West — get sucked into the ballpark equivalent of an arms race. It will be the biggest growth market in the baseball world for the next few years.

Green is still good. You would think adding green features to a ballpark would fall to the wayside given the bad economy. And there are some signs that a full-scale green revolution in sports facilities won't happen. But green is still a factor in ballparks, particularly where public funding and financing is concerned: adding green features can help in selling a project to a skeptical public. It's good public policy.

It will continue to be a buyers' market in the minors. It is a good time to have money, as there are some deals to be made if you're looking to buy a baseball team. Former MiLB President Mike Moore repeatedly warned owners about the escalating valuation of ballclubs, and it looks like he was right: Many teams were overvaluated the last five years, and unfortunately a lot of folks bought into the market at its high point. We continue to hear about affiliated teams on the market for some pretty decent and fair prices. Valuations are even more depressed in the indy ranks. We don't expect this trend to wane in the coming year.

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