So the West Side Stadium went down in flames last night after a ten year battle. This guy Doctroff had better be out of a job this morning. I for one am furious. Surprising to those who know me, since I’m involved in an anti-development campaign here in my neighborhood in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn (they’re trying to knock down all the single family homes in favor of six to eight story apartment buildings), and because I was a drama major and our stereotype is that of people who hate sports. I supported the stadium on the West Side, and I support an arena in Brooklyn, for two reasons.
First, even though I come from the arts, I learned as far back as high school that the supposed conflict between arts and sports is a stupid one. I believe both arts and sports are important both for the development of a person and for the spiritual well being and identity of a population. The Greeks, after all, created both the theatre and the Olympics. On a more simple level both are forms of entertainment, and although they compete for one another for audience, they are in fact often complimentary.
Second, and much more importantly, I believe in the stadium because I think it is a good idea economically. I used to live in San Francisco, and every time I go back there I see the amazing activity and business and buildings that have grown up around SBC ball park. With the park as it’s anchor, China Basin, once one of the worst neighborhoods in the region, has become, arguably, the most desirable real estate in all of California Seriously: while Atherton commands the highest home prices, density makes the land around the stadium much more valuable. A condo near the ball park runs about $1,000,000 per bedroom. But it’s not just the housing prices: it’s all the businesses that have moved into the area near the ballpark since it was built, all those people. All thos visitors, all those jobs. There is a valid argument (and I’ve made it) that development of this part of San Francisco and the loophole created by “loft” zoning priced people out of the City (myself included), but you can’t deny the amount of money and tax base the park helped create.
Interestingly, SBC Park is also an example of the pitfalls of stadium construction for a professional team. It was completely privately financed (a publicly financed park wouldn’t fly in The City), which was seen at the time as very progressive, but it has really hurt the Giants. Even though they put a decent team on the field, play in the most popular ballpark in the country, consistently sell out and get good TV and merchandising revenues, the amount they have to pay back on their loans means they can’t afford to get good pitching and, let’s fact it, a few years ago they were one seventh inning meltdown away from the winning the world series, and their collapse was entirely due to their pitching. As this season has demonstrated, they can’t win without Barry Bonds, but even with Bond’s they couldn’t win the series without some real pitching. Perhaps after Barry retires they may have more money to spend on pitchers, but his contract isn’t the reason they can’t afford to go after good free agents. It’s the fact that they, not the city, paid for the park (that, and they’re not owned by George Steinbrener).
But back to Brooklyn and Manhattan: a West Side Stadium was a good idea. The Olympics are a good idea. A Brooklyn Arena is a good idea and moving the Nets to Brooklyn is a good idea. Those people who are opposed to these good ideas oppose them for purely selfish reasons, some anti-business, some anti-sports, most anti-anything that could change their neighborhoods, even if the change is for the better. As reported in today’s Times, we have become a society in which the whiners hold veto power over the visionaries. Think one that for a moment, and consider no Moon Walk, no skyscrapers, no Eiffel Tower, no cathedrals, no hanging gardens, no Angkor Wat, no Pyramids, no civilization, no fire. And then think of no West Side Stadium. And good luck on that Freedom Tower thing. If Pharo had had lived in Manhattan, there would be no pyramids. Think on that.