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The big event nobody knew they wanted before
On Houston freeways, public-interest projects, and what a college women's basketball attendance record says about induced demand
More than 55,000 people showed up to watch an exhibit basketball game played between the University of Iowa and DePaul -- noteworthy for two reasons: It was played in Kinnick Stadium (the University of Iowa's outdoor football stadium, with a capacity of 69,250), and because it set by far and away the attendance record for a college women's basketball game.
■ If someone had looked only at the historical record, they might have had the impression that there was no demand at all for an outdoor women's basketball game in Iowa City. But in the same spirit as the Field of Dreams game and the 26-lane-wide freeway in Houston, "If you build it, they will come."
■ These things don't necessarily happen without other factors, of course. Marketing and promotion play a role. Community buy-in and adjusting preferences are involved, too. They do, however, point to the importance of avoiding the lure of inertia.
■ It's easy to believe that the future will look like a straight-line projection from the past through the present. It's also a mistake. Things change and big ideas come to fruition because individuals commit to them and invest in creating visions that attract others.
■ Those visions don't have to be manipulative or self-serving. They also shouldn't be isolated to entertainment spectacles. The world needs bold and seductive projects to serve public interests, too, -- though not necessarily delivered by the public sector -- on matters ranging from housing affordability to innovations in education to entitlement spending to biotechnology and well beyond.
■ The belief that great motivating events are possible (and important) ought to take some cues from the progress made in the world of sports. The public often doesn't know how much it wants something until someone shows the initiative to paint a picture of a new reality.