In recent years, some sports facilities have been called “white elephants.” The term dates back to ancient Asia when a king would gift a white elephant to a subordinate he was dissatisfied with because the associated costs of keeping a white elephant significantly outweigh its value.
Today’s white elephants include sports facilities that have experienced substantial construction cost overruns, are underused or present a financial burden to taxpayers. White elephants are so common that sport facility legacies could possibly be the least promising benefit of hosting a major sport event.
However, the term has generally not been applied to sport facilities that professional sport teams call home. The pandemic has further exaggerated these white elephant characteristics of just about all large spectator sport facilities.
For example, the stadium constructed for the 1976 Montréal Olympics — known as the Big O — had an original estimated cost of $250 million. However, it is referred to as the “Big Owe” because construction costs inflated to a $1.4 billion project.