Harvard Portrait: Judith Grant Long

Judith Grant Long

“Like most city planners, I’m a city planner and something else,” says Judith Grant Long, M.D.S. ’95, Ph.D. ’02, RI ’12, associate professor of urban planning at the Graduate School of Design. The “something else” involves sports and finance: once Canada’s third-ranked junior squash player, she later studied economics in college. Afterward, while working as a consultant, she realized that local governments often oversubsidize developers pushing big sports stadiums. She came to Harvard for a design-studies master’s, and met Christopher Long ’82, M.B.A. ’87, while waiting for friends at Harvest. (The couple recently celebrated their tenth anniversary there; they live in Concord with their two daughters.) Grant Long joined the GSD in 2005. Her first book, Public-Private Partnerships for Major League Sports Facilities, argues that big stadiums almost always cost taxpayers dearly: Hamilton County, Ohio, for example, recently sold a hospital to cover debt payments on a Bengals stadium. But stadiums may confer other benefits, she says, in particular as redevelopment projects or sources of civic pride. Her current research on the Olympics shows that hosts almost never recoup their investment, either, but often have other motives for seeking the Games: “The classic example is Beijing in 2008, announcing its arrival as a sort-of-free-market economy.” For smaller cities, Grant Long says less-expensive soccer stadiums, which can be used by students and professional players alike, are among the best sports-facility investments. Otherwise, she advises, build parks and recreation areas that serve both kids and adults. “I’d like to take the focus off the big leagues,” she says, and encourage “sports, at the local level, that are multigenerational.”

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