Wednesday, March 19, 2008

New Ballparks, How People Don't Get It

Recently I was in Miami for a family function. Now while this city has never been one of my favorites, you can’t deny that a March trip to any place where shorts and a tee are the daily dress code is an improvement.

But Miami rose a tad in my personal esteem department, when it was announced that the city fathers were tearing down the Orange Bowl, a New Year’s day landmark and home of Florida’s answer to the Grandaddy out in Pasedena.

I produced quite a few Orange Bowl games. Several of them were National Championship games, long before the BCS. I spent a lot of time in that stadium and although it was a number of years ago, even back then the stadium was a dump. It only got worse; in fact it was so bad that the committee moved the Orange Bowl game up I-95 to the more modern Dolphins Stadium while the Orange Bowl was still standing.

As bad as the stadium was, the neighborhood was worse. If you left a game shortly after the bulk of the crowd and was not fortunate enough to get one of the limited spots on the grounds, you walked through the streets with significant trepidation.

Fast forward to last week. Word came out that those same city fathers had approved some a half billion dollars to build a new stadium for the baseball Florida Marlins, who ironically have played in that same football stadium that houses both the Dolphins, Orange Bowl, and now the University of Miami, the last surviving tenant of that old dump.

And where is that stadium going up? You guessed it, right on the same spot as that aforementioned dump in that seedy neighborhood.

Here in New York, we are building two new ballparks. Another is going up across the Hudson. Lots of dough being spent, lots of construction work, and while the stadiums are basically caddy corner to existing structures, they retain their biggest attribute, accessibility. Yes, CityField, will still have the noise of the airplanes taking off from la Guardia, that noise has become a personality of Shea, and the New Yankee stadium will still be in the south Bronx, where the neighborhood is undergoing a renaissance. And most important, you can still take the 7 train to see the Mets, and the 4 or D to see the Yanks

Not the case in Miami, while a half billion seems like a lot of cash, in terms of stadium construction, it’s a mere pittance. And while the new digs may look nice, not word one about improving the neighborhood. Once the sheen of the park wears off, given the financial track record of the franchise, the crowds will once again be smaller.

The Marlins have one of the worst attendance records in MLB. It still amazes me that the “brains” behind keeping this franchise in South Florida really don’t have a clue

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