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A Warning from Cleveland: Could Baseball Fail D.C.?

The extraordinary frenzy of construction that now surrounds the Washington Nationals ballpark is a tribute to ex-Mayor Tony Williams and all those who believed that bringing baseball back to the District would end up being a smart move for the city, even if taxpayers and fans are fronting $611 million to build the stadium.

But there is nothing automatic about expanding the tax base and sparking the economic development that stadium proponents have long touted as the justification for public investment in a ballpark.

I saw that firsthand this month on visits to Cleveland, Detroit and Cincinnati, where new downtown stadiums have done little to cure urban ills or inject street life into places that can be scary and desolate except immediately before and after a game.

I have made much in the past of the powerful success of downtown sports facilities in adding new neighborhoods to cities, thereby generating new tax revenues and rationalizing the use of public dollars. And examples of that phenomenon abound, from San Francisco to Denver to right here in the District, where the Abe Pollin Arena on Seventh Street NW made an enormous contribution toward luring other investors into what is now a thriving and attractive East End. When the new Shakespeare Theatre opens in October, that will be just the latest reminder of the remarkable turnaround Pollin launched by building his arena downtown.

But at this early stage of development around the Nationals ballpark, it's also important to look at places where the promise has not been fulfilled, and my family's summer trip to some of those new downtown ballparks was quite instructive in that vein.

"The perception is that Cleveland," according to my counterpart at the city's Plain Dealer, columnist Regina Brett, "is sinking faster than the Titanic." Bratt herself doesn't quite buy that assessment, but says that the city "has veered off course. No one is steering....We can't live like this anymore."

Another Plain Dealer columnist, Dick Feagler, suggests that his city is a "minor-league town" that has but a few "vestiges of a great city." What sparked Feagler's almost desperate plea for leadership in his city was the death earlier this month of a 58-year-old seamstress who was on her way from the suburbs to see "The Lion King" at a downtown Cleveland theater just a few blocks from the baseball stadium. The woman was run down by four teenagers--a 13-year-old and three 14-year-olds--who were fleeing police in a stolen Plymouth Breeze.

No sports stadium can solve social ills. But the idea behind public investment in ballparks is that they can serve as anchors for retail, entertainment, office and residential development that will in turn boost the city's tax base, enliven its streets and thereby lift all, or at least many, boats.

In Cleveland, it doesn't seem to have worked. Jacobs Field is a terrific place to watch a ballgame. It's inviting, seems smaller than it really is, fits well into the city's grid, opens onto the city and has sparked development of a few big and crowded bars that capture some of the pre- and post-game crowd. The Indians do their part, hosting post-game rock concerts on an inviting plaza that looks out onto the surrounding streets. But walk even two blocks away from the stadium and there is precious little evidence of any improvements that can be attributed to the stadium's presence.

The streets are desolate much of the time. Homeless men rule the downtown at night and nearly match the number of tourists strolling down to the (fabulous) Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by day. There are very few restaurants downtown, and when we stopped in at one, neither the very helpful waitress nor four of her colleagues could think of a place to go for ice cream within a 20-minute drive of downtown.

Downtown Cleveland of course has a large number of major office buildings and the Rock Hall is one of the nation's top tourist attractions. But it's hard to point to any revival of downtown stemming from the construction of Jacobs Field, and there's certainly nothing like the retail and entertainment neighborhood that is planned for Half Street SE adjacent to the Nats stadium in Washington.

Similarly, Cincinnati's new Great American Ballpark, while a very pleasant place to watch a game, cannot be credited with sparking new development. There is a spectacular new museum next door focusing on the history of the Underground Railroad, but it and the stadium are divided from the bulk of the city's downtown by a huge interstate highway that forms a moat effectively discouraging any ballpark-generated development from connecting with the city's center.

And in Detroit, Comerica Park, which may be the best of the new class of stadiums in both architecture and fan-friendly amenities, sits in a great site in the very heart of downtown. But except for a couple of bars hard by the ballpark, there's not much evidence of economic spillover.

In all three of these cities, a visitor quickly gets a sense of how smart it was for the District to focus its revitalization effort on building residential communities downtown, which has created a density of pedestrian activity vastly beyond what any of these other troubled cities can boast, even after they built their stadiums.

There is still no guarantee that the D.C. experiment with baseball as economic development tool will work. Yes, some very big developers are pumping very big money into the area, and yes, the plans look great on paper or on a computer screen. But the ultimate test of the new Southeast's success will be whether people come, and the declining attendance at RFK over the Nationals' first three years is not hugely encouraging. That said, a new ballpark will inevitably draw large crowds to at least check out the new scene. The fact that the surrounding development will lag completion of the ballpark by a few years is a bit troubling, but still, the promise remains strong.

To warn against any cockiness, however, it would behoove city officials and developers to visit these Rust Belt cities to see clearly that a stadium alone is no panacea, and that an awful lot depends on making certain that a plan exists to require developers to provide amenities that will make the new neighborhood worth visiting, and that the team's owners do their part to make going to a game an experience worth repeating.

I'll have more on what these other cities can teach Washington on that front tomorrow right here on the big blog.

By Marc Fisher |  August 23, 2007; 7:52 AM ET
Previous: AA Renegade Dies--Whither Midtown? | Next: Lessons for the Lerners: What to Steal From Other Ballparks

Comments

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And if they can't get the schools in working order, there will be no next generation to watch baseball. It will be the suburban visitors (guilty) and the empty nesters who returned to be "close to the action."

Posted by: A Hobbit Mom | August 23, 2007 8:20 AM

You're right, A Hobbit Mom, but let's hope that the new schools chancellor works out better than the last few.

Remember that the plan was always to first build the tax base (condos to attract young singles and empty nesters) then fix the schools (to keep and attract families).

Let's hope, huh?

Posted by: A Hobbit Mom | August 23, 2007 8:26 AM

To compare DC to Cleveland, Cincinnati, or Detroit is to compare apples to oranges. DC is not the Rust Belt. DC does not have a dying (steel and auto manufacturing) industrial economic base. We're a growing, thriving, and developing metropolis that attracts people from around the world to live and work in the National Capital Area. None of those Rust Belt cities can make that claim.

The new Nationals Stadium can only help to revitalize a part of the city that has stood blighted for decades. Or does anyone believe all the strip clubs, liquor stores, vacant crumbling buildings, trash filled yards, and open air drug markets that once lined the SE waterfront were the answer to economic revitalization? Please, at least Anthony Williams had the vision and guts to change that image when so many prior DC government administrations and councils sat on their hands.

And please stop with the arguments the schools and the children will suffer because of a stadium. Not one dollar has been taken away from the disasterous DCPS to build the stadium. Not one. The schools, like the SE waterfront, were a disaster long before the Expos moved to DC. Mayor Fenty seems to be doing the right things to turn the DCPS system around. But like the revitalization around the stadium it will take time for the DCPS to turn itself around for the better.

Show some initestinal fortitude Marc by having some patience to allow things the time to change for the better. The area around the MCI Center or whatever it's called didn't change overnight. And neither will it around the stadium but in 10 years let's look back at what was and what is possible thanks to Anthony Williams.

Posted by: Give me a break | August 23, 2007 9:19 AM

One big difference between Nats Park & Detroit/Cincinnati--in those cities, almost no one rides public transportation to the ballparks whereas here lots, maybe more than half, will be taking Metro. If I'm riding Metro from work to the park, I'm much more likely to stop, eat & shop, on the way to the park. Cleveland is a better example, since people ride the Rapid to the Jake & as Marc points out, will stop at a bar. The fact that the rest of Cleveland is deserted at night doesn't mean that the rest of DC will be--there are already plenty of people here out after 5 pm whereas in Cleveland many of the restaurants downtown are in the (self-contained) Flats.

Posted by: Section 418 | August 23, 2007 9:19 AM

I'm perplexed by the post above. If there is anyone in this area who has been a champion of getting this stadium built, it has been Fisher.

Posted by: Arlington, VA | August 23, 2007 9:21 AM

yeah, marc, don't go all wobbly on us now! :)

seriously though, i won't belabor the point, but the fact that we have residential buildings in our downtown (and there will be a TON around the new stadium) will be the trump card that DC has the detroit, cincy, etc. do not have. and our economy here is NOTHING like michigan's or ohio's. we're doing so much better, it's like living in another country. i'm from michigan, and i pray that detroit may one day return to glory, but they have exponentially more work to do and bigger problems than we do in DC.

Posted by: IMGoph | August 23, 2007 9:27 AM

Arlington VA get it right, Marc. This is not the tune you were singing when you were cheerleading for the use of public funds to build the stadium.

Baseball stadiums (and even more so football stadiums) cannot be compared to indoor arenas in terms of the their economic development potential, because they are used less often, dont fit as well into downtown street grids, and have less street-level retail.

Whether DC thrives or not will, ultimately, have little or nothing to do with baseball. The economic development claims for the stadium were wildly exaggerated, not least by you. Whether the development in SE would have taken place anyway is hard to say, especially since many other parts of DC are being actively developed without any ballpark. But you said it yourself -- it will be hard to keep the energy in a place that's empty and desolate for all but 81 days a year.

Don't get me wrong -- I am thrilled to have baseball here, and I go to games frequently. I just don't think that public funds should have been used to build the stadium (or at least there should have been a meaningful contribution from MLB).

Posted by: Meridian | August 23, 2007 9:31 AM

I am inclined to agree with the last poster: I recall Mr. Fisher being downright rabid in his demand that the city pony up 500, no 600, no wait, 700 million dollars so MLB owners could score a new stadium. And now it's the residents of DC who have to be patient and cooperative to make sure it works? I see an uncomfortable parallel with the screaming match that preceded the Iraq war, with lunatic fringers demanding that we invade unilaterally "to protect our nation", then when the whole bloody mess went to Hell they switch to "be patient, it's going to take time and good management."
I was one poster who, along with Mayor Fenty and David Catania, did NOT see the benefit to the citizens of DC. Yeah, I'm sorry to say but I don't think the revenue is going to be all that great.
One other item: while I occasionally enjoy Mr. Fisher's provocative and sometimes caustic blogs, I think he is being way, way over-exposed by the Post for what is essentially a rattling, rambling screed that only bounces off of points, rarely making them. Translation: once a week would be suffice for this overheated and bombastic scrivener.

Posted by: HarpoDC | August 23, 2007 9:32 AM

"Give me a break," you wrote exactly what I was going to write - apples and oranges. The economy of Ohio is a mess right now. The reason there is no development around Great American Ballpark is because the plans have been held up. I don't know if Fisher saw the development plans on the wall outside the stadium, but the empty lot where Riverfront once stood will eventually be bars and shops. The mayor seems to be pushing for development to begin as early as November, though there have been some political issues as well as the economic ones.

There are cultural issues as well. Cincinnati is a hyper conservative town (it is slowly changing, thank god). There are places to go downtown, but people won't because of "the crime" (translation - black people live there). You have to remember this is a city that had race riots in 2001.

I grew up in Southwest Ohio and am a huge Reds fan, and I have to say that I was impressed with the changes I saw in Cincinnati when I visited this summer. Aside from a couple of ballgames every season, I hadn't really had the opportunity to explore the city since college in the nineties. The plans will go through, but the economy of Ohio has to get better for them to be fully implemented.

Here in DC, you've got a city full of young professionals with nothing but disposable income. It's very different than Cincy, and a new section of town in which to go out will be very welcome. There's nothing around RFK, so without a winning team, it's a pretty tough draw. It won't be so with the new stadium.

Posted by: JoshHamilton | August 23, 2007 9:36 AM

Where exactly is the link between the nationals stadium and the sparking of a better downtown? The Stadium is the last of the major development already happening up and down M Street from South Capitol to 11 st SE, bordered by 395 and the water. The whole area is under redevelopment due to first the Navy moving many organizations to the Navy Yard, the Marines building their barracks in the area, the contractors following NAVSEA to the Yard thus the office building boom, DOT moving its HQ to the GSA part of the yard, and DC's committment to redeveloping the public housing, the senior housing and the Charter School. How much more sparking of development can happen in this corridor? The other side of South Capitol is what needs a spark, where EAP HQ used to be and the other side of the river in Annacostia needs a spark, something that brings jobs to that area. The stadium is not downtown, the area is not a hub. It will keep people in this area from perhaps leaving work and going straight home in traffic. They might stay, have dinner and go to a 7:30 game instead. DC residents can metro or bus to a game and maybe enjoy coming early, as opposed to RFK which has nothing surrounding it. Balitmore's stadium worked, because it encouraged people to stay and go to the game after work. It doesn't work great, because the owner is an idiot. You have great ownership here and the nationals should be able to compete with the Phillies, Marlins, Braves in the salary arena; The Mets are in another level. If Kasten can make it all work when he was with the Braves, he can make it all work here.

Posted by: Not even a comparison | August 23, 2007 9:37 AM

Meridian, how is bringing 30-40k people and their wallets into the SE waterfront 81 times, between April and late September (hopefully October, too, eventually) an insignificant accomplishment? I'd tend to agree if you'd stuck with football stadiums, but 81 events is pretty much on par with basketball and hockey combined (and if you've been to a Caps game lately, you know the number of fans is closer to 5k).

Posted by: Anon | August 23, 2007 9:39 AM

I recently visited all three stadiums on a midwest baseball road trip. Jacobs Field in Cleveland overlooks a parking lot of the Key Arena and Detroit is a beautiful stadium in a horrible town where seagulls land in left field. And in Cincinnati you get a beautiful of Covington, KY across the Ohio river which is doing a wonderful job of redevelopment with a Liebskind apartment building. This is while the stadium sits next to open lots near the football stadium and the Underground Railroad Museum

Posted by: Jay | August 23, 2007 9:43 AM

Having been to both Detroit (family) and Cleveland (conference) recently, it is very sad that neither city has been able to capitalize on their new sports stadiums. In March, I stayed across the street from Jacob's Filed in Cleveland. There was nothing! It was stunning. Having spent much of my life in Baltimore and DC I expected that, even in the off season, there would be restaurants, bars, etc in the immediate area. Instead, I saw a smattering of delis and iffy-looking lounges, and a sports bar that appeared to be closed until opening day. Detroit doesn't have much, either. At least they have Hockeytown and the Fox Theater nearby Comerica Park, but there really isn't a place to go before or after the game to grab something to eat. Its not a place I'd willingly go other than game day.

Posted by: baseball junkie | August 23, 2007 9:48 AM

---But the idea behind public investment in ballparks is that they can serve as anchors for retail, entertainment, office and residential development that will in turn boost the city's tax base, enliven its streets and thereby lift all, or at least many, boats---

Yankee stadium supports America's most winning-est franchise and it has done nothing to uplift the Bronx. The anatomy of this thing is this---you come in right before and you leave right after. a big office complex would have anchored the area a lot better than a stadium.

And what next a public finance for that?

Posted by: KB | August 23, 2007 9:48 AM

Any chance of a stadium on H Street, NE? Or atop Sursum Corda?

Posted by: Mr. Johnson | August 23, 2007 9:48 AM

When suggesting that the Washington Post has a conflict of interest and would benefit from baseball in DC by providing summer sports content and advertising opportunities, I remember Mr. Fisher responding in a condescending manner to me that "I love a good conspiracy theory as much as anyone, but this one has too many holes" (WP is currently a Nationals sponsor). Maybe Mr. Fisher is now passing on the kool aid he once cheerfully imbibed.

Posted by: still a critic | August 23, 2007 9:48 AM

It's certainly true that the new ballpark can only improve what has long been an urban wasteland along the SE Waterfront. But Fisher is right that a stadium alone doesn't always turn an area around, and that's especially true along the Waterfront since the area is not currently an employment hub. The ballparks Fisher talks about are essentially outposts that people come in and out of, without a whole lot of connection with the rest of the city. Ballparks do not create thriving communities - they contribute to thriving communities. That's why the Waterfront project has to be thought about comprehensively, and not done based on a mostly false assumption that a ballpark is a natural magnet for positive urban development. The urban development (retail, office, and residential) around the ballpark has to be as intentional as the ballpark itself in order for the area to be transformed. Cleveland built its stadium under the 'if we build it, they will come' approach, and the results are in. That can't be the approach here. The Waterfront is an outpost in the city; it's not part of the central city core and is not particularly close to the employment centers that often fill the seats in urban ballparks, unlike Verizon Center. The Waterfront needs to become a functioning community in order to become part of the larger fabric of the region that will garner fan support and long-term economic viability in the area.

Posted by: vajent | August 23, 2007 9:52 AM

Jay,

Yes, I should have mentioned the development of Northern Kentucky that came once GABp was built. When I was in college, there was no Newport on the Levee, the Purple People Bridge was a run down old train bridge, and you couldn't see towering cranes on the horizon everywhere you looked. I guess the pace around the stadium is slow, but the competent people of Kentucky seem to be benefiting. I was pretty amazed to go down the river and see how far Kentucky's development stretched.

Competence in city management goes a long way!

Posted by: JoshHamilton | August 23, 2007 9:55 AM

Of course, putting a winner on the field might also encourage people to attend games.

Posted by: JTN | August 23, 2007 9:55 AM

I'm shocked that neither Mr. Fisher nor anyone else has cited Houston as an example of a new stadium fostering urban revitalization. The addition of Minute Maid Park several years ago is single-handedly responsible for the dramatic upturn in Houston's Texas Ave / Convention Center corridor. Soon after its completion, several hotels (including a Hilton), upscale steak and seafood houses, and boutiques appeared. I suggest anyone who doubts the ability of a well-planned ballpark to spur development visit the Bayou city - it offers a ray of hope for DC's waterfront district.

Posted by: Davis | August 23, 2007 9:59 AM

Maybe try "Fail 'in' DC"- Nats haven't been drawing well now that the novelty has worn off and .500 is still a (crack-) pipedream. Watch what happens when the new stadium is no longer so new, it's humid, and ticket prices are at Dan Snyder levels.

Posted by: Ray Chapman | August 23, 2007 10:05 AM

I am not sure it is wise to compare those cities with the District. Projected job growth will bring the people. Also, home values in the District are actually UP a bit as reported yesterday. I've been to Jacob's field and its true. its a great ballpark on 9th street with a federal building and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on the other end by the water and not much else off of 9th Street. Ohio is also one of the top foreclosure states.
I agree that if you build it, they "MIGHT" come, but demand for those townhomes (see reports on the campers waiting for weeks to get one) is strong. They are coming even before the first pitch is thrown!
Apples/Oranges? I'm afraid so.

Posted by: B | August 23, 2007 10:23 AM

Several others posters have hit the nail on the head -- to compare DC to the three examples cited is ridiculous. All three cities' ills extend far beyond that of downtown development. Rather, the lack of development is symptomatic of each city's economic plights and not a result of the venue failing.

Detroit with all of its much-chronicled woes, should've been thrown out from the get-go. Instead of simply looking at cities that had built downtown stadiums, Fisher should have *first* looked at cities that were similar to DC in economic makeup and real estate market conditions, *then* which of those cities had built downtown stadiums. In that sense both SF and Denver are better examples and -suprise- successes. But that doesn't make for a very good column, I guess.

The fact remains that the real-estate market in DC is still quite healthy even with the recent cooling off. And development, while slowed somewhat, has continued at a healthy pace.

The ballpark will be a boon to Near SE.

Posted by: FearlessFreep | August 23, 2007 10:31 AM

Reply to Anon:

I agree that bringing millions of people into DC for ballgames may have an economic benefit. The comparison with an arena has less to do with the total number of people than the number of "dark" nights -- and size. A gaping whole in the urban fabric that is dark all but 81 days (maybe a few more if they make the playoffs) makes it virtually impossible for ancillary businesses to thrive in the way they do on 7th street. A use of the ballpark property that would have been active 365 days a year would probably have been better for economic development. Do you want to live across the street from a place that will be deserted most of the year -- including every night during the dark months of the winter? I don't.

As for those people who point out that DC is not Cincinnati or Cleveland, they are right, but then they can't have it both ways: if DC will thrive because its economic situation and development momentum is intrinsically different from those cities, then you can't credit the ballpark for the development that is taking place either in SE or elsewhere in the city.

Posted by: Meridian | August 23, 2007 10:40 AM

For more info on Cincy's development problems, check out this article from the Cincy Post a few days ago: news.cincypost.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070817/NEWS01/708170371

It shows you just the type of idiocy that is holding up the Banks development project. It's always one issue after another - this time building height and density.

Posted by: JoshHamilton | August 23, 2007 10:45 AM

I just want to clarify one thing about my previous post:

I don't object to the location chosen for the ballpark. Given the various options, it was probably the most promising of the various options presented. And I think for DC and the region as a whole, major league baseball is a great amenity and I am happy to have it here.

I am simply making the point that if one were to look at that land from a strictly economic standpoint, a ballpark is probably not the highest and best use one could put that land to, and that the economic benefits to the city as a whole from doing so have been exaggerated. Therefore, I believe more of the cost should have been borne by MLB or the team's owners. Unfortunately, that is not the case, and the best we can do now is develop the area surrounding the ballpark as effectively as possible.

But we can also hold the Lerners' feet to the fire regarding their own promises to (a) pour $30 million or more into the ballpark, which the Washington Times recently reported they have failed to do, and (b) put their real estate expertise to use in developing the neighborhood, including solving the parking problem they are now looking, inappropriately, to the city to resolve.

Posted by: Meridian | August 23, 2007 10:57 AM

I remember Chinatown pre-Phonebooth. My family has been going to Tony Cheng's Mongolian BBQ for about 20 years. We used to have to bypass the homeless and drunks, empty boarded up buildings, and ladies of the evening. We still go to Tony Chengs, though we have choices now, and we only go on nights the Phonebooth is dark, to avoid the crowds. The difference in the Chinatown area is huge, and due to the development brought in by Mr Pollin's arena. I go to Chinatown to eat before Nats games, due to the lack of anything around RFK. I'm looking forward to being able to get a post game drink outside the new stadium and letting the Metro crowds thin out. If there are good bars and restaurants by the new stadium, they will draw crowds on dark nights and the off season, just like in Chinatown. And the Nats will start winning consistantly soon. They aren't in last place anymore! The sky's the limit!

Posted by: Sparks | August 23, 2007 11:03 AM

Keep in mind that Jacobs Field produced something that will NEVER happen in DC. The 43,000-seat stadium opened in 1994, and between 1995 and early 2001 the Indians sold out 455 straight games. In fact, they sold out all 81 home games before opening day on three separate occasions. The future success of baseball in this heavily transient city will be based on one of Mayor Williams' biggest selling points from the start: non-DC natives will come to the park to watch their favorite hometown team...the Cardinals, Cubs, Mets, Dodgers, etc. I love going to RFK not to watch the Nats, but to watch my hometown Florida Marlins.

Posted by: Marlin in DC | August 23, 2007 11:04 AM

Sparks:

When you compare arenas to baseball stadiums you are comparing apples to oranges.

Can you demonstrate a similar effect from a baseball stadium, especially one not placed in an existing downtown? Also, I would be careful in confusing causes and effects -- the Verizon center was an important component of, but certainly not the sole cause of, the redevelopment of the downtown/Penn Quarter/Chinatown/Convention Center district.

Posted by: Meridian | August 23, 2007 11:10 AM

The recent spate of new stadiums being built throughout the country often come with promises of local economic development. Unfortunately, time and time again these claims of an economic boost are found to be unsustainable. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh (note that they have two new stadiums) have performed studies that show the dollars spent on new stadiums are not worth the benefit, if the benefit is aimed to be economic development. If the benefit is civic pride and entertainment, then we have a different issue.

From an economic standpoint, you have to ask if $600 million taxpayer dollars could be spent in other ways that could generate economic development. The claim that the ballpark attendees will spur the growth is tenuous, for most research has shown that athletic events are entertainment, and tend to take dollars away from other entertainment events. Instead of going to a concert or a restaurant, those same dollars are chasing tickets to a game. It's only if you bring in substantial monies from outside the metro area that a difference is seen. For eighty-two games a year, likely only those games against the New York clubs, the Chicago Cubs, and maybe the Phillies would bring in outside dollars, and that's for at most 20 days a year.

The new stadium will be wonderful in many respects, but please don't tout it as an economic engine.

Posted by: Surprised | August 23, 2007 11:26 AM

JoshHamilton:

Dismissing people's fears of crime as racism is stupid. Crime in urban areas is very real. Ask anyone that lives in DC.

Saying we're all just racists because we don't like getting shot in the head is stupid.

Yes, some people are racist and won't go into urban areas because they don't like being around blacks. Just like many blacks in urban areas treat whites as inferiors.

But that doesn't mean there isn't very real crime in urban areas, DC and Cincinnati included.

I don't care what color the thug is. I care that he is a thug. And he's harming me and my family.

So stop with the "fear of crime is racism" crap already.

Posted by: Hillman | August 23, 2007 11:29 AM

DC should require that every single new building built near the stadium to be mixed use - the first floor must be retail, and there must be a housing component). That's how you get a livable neighborhood. Developers would rather just build a bland office building, since that's cheaper and they get higher rents. But the city is in a great situation - the stadium area is in very high demand and we as residents should demand mixed use, with ground floor retail.

In fact, ground floor retail should be a requirement for major buildings city-wide. Lack of retail in new buildings is a stunning waste of opportunity for city residents.

Posted by: Hillman | August 23, 2007 11:35 AM

It's the link and node theory. You have to have a draw. The reason why stadiums are not good investment is because they are not used but a small number of days. yes they are and econmic boom for 8 sundays between 12 and 4PM. after that what else do they offer. The verizon center in not an anolmaly to this. DC was on the cusp of an urban rebirth. Certain parts of town showed it, and downtow was a classic venue for the investment. the corner itself is now bright and engaging, but look at so man other options you have in downtown DC now.

Posted by: RobGreg | August 23, 2007 11:43 AM

And lets not forget the Verizon center was privately constructed.

If the same were true of the ballpark, would we be having this discussion? Not likely.

Posted by: Meridian | August 23, 2007 11:51 AM

I think Marc makes good points and I think it's fair for him to wave a cautionary finger... What concerns me most about our new and improved ballpark district is that the restaurants and shops not be merely warmed over hash that we have out at Tysons or Dupont Circle. For every national chain like Ruby Tuesday's, please find us a Matchbox or a Tonic. For every Ann Taylor, put in a Pink October or a Caramel.

Posted by: tonkatruck | August 23, 2007 11:52 AM

Studies by the Brookings Institution, Cato Institute, Heritage Foundation, and dozens of independent university programs agree: sports and tourism complexes are a bad investment of the public's money. Period. No exceptions.

Three decades of studies -- and even studies of the studies -- agree: most money generated from these projects leaves town, as do tax revenues derived from it. Why does this practice continue? Local officials, taking advice from salesmen, want to believe their case will be different. It will not be. The jurisdiction will have reduced its ability to borrow money because it has issued hundreds of millions in stadium bonds, and a huge chunck of land will be unused 8 or 9 months out of the year. To the delight of sports bookies in Las Vegas, emotionally-involved people always bet the rent on a losing home team. It is a sucker bet, and we took it. But even championship teams lose the public's money on these stadium deals.

Check for yourself at http://www.planning.unc.edu/courses/261/gessner/mnreview.htm#10

Posted by: Mike Licht | August 23, 2007 11:55 AM

A couple of points -- while perhaps no funds for schools, hospitals, the homeless, etc. were diverted for the stadium, certainly a significant amount of the former and current Mayors' time was. The Post has story almost every day about the failure of the most basic functions of government. It doesn't require a rocket scientist to get textbooks in the hands of school kids. It does however, require someone paying attention.

Second point is about safety/parking. For baseball to be successful in DC we've got to get more kids interested. As a third year Nats season ticket holder who works in DC and lives in the burbs, I'm wondering how I'm going to safely get myself and my kids from the new stadium to my car after a night game. Now we simply walk to one of the big lots at RFK. Kids fall asleep in the car and 45 minutes later we're home. Metro adds an hour to the trip. If we can't park someplace close and safe we're going to see the Potomac Nats instead.

I hope the area around the stadium gets built up like Chinatown did, but it's going to take 5 to 10 years. I sure hope the Nats and the city don't lose me by catering to the city's bigwigs at the expense of families.

Posted by: Dad from NoVA | August 23, 2007 12:11 PM

These cities don't have a mammoth federal agency right next door (DOT/4800 employees), a Navy Yard, a thriving Capitol Hill neighborhood blocks away; nor do they have a completed hotel and two more rising up just across the street. They also don't have have the public transportation system. Cleveland and Cincy don't have rail; I can't speak for Detroit. The biggest issue is places to eat. Right now it's Five Guys and Subway. Hardly an evening of fine dining. To those of us who live in on the SW Waterfront, the lack of restaurants is the single most important factor in development and success of a thriving new entertainment district.

Posted by: Craig | August 23, 2007 12:35 PM

Some of the misinformation that gets onto these blogs is truly amazing:

1. No one with half a brain ever thought that the Ballpark, any ballpark, could be a stand-alone economic engine, although in some places it has been touted as such. The most extreme example is the "Field of Dreams" field in Iowa. To the best of my knowledge no one seriously involved with OxBlue stadium development ever proposed that it would be anything but a part, although a major part, of an economic redevelopment.

2. The $600 million of taxpayer dollars could have better been spent elsewhere. How many times does it have to be repeated: Without the stadium, the $600million does not exist?

3. DC is a unique situation. It can't be compared to a facility like an arena that can draw 365 days a year (which they don't, since even with concerts, the Circus, IceCapades, etc. they are still dark quite a number of days each year) because one cannot simply extrapolate and say that the stadium will be unused more than 3/4 of the days during the year. The baseball season runs about 6 months a year, so that the 81 dates are about 1/2 the days during that period. Guess what else is prime during that period? Tourism! The stadium will provide another evening attraction for tourists, including more areas for entertainment, etc. BTW, of course a family of five won't be likely to be sitting behind homeplate with the lobbyists in the super expensive seats, but the Lerners have made it very clear that there would be affordable seats.

Posted by: Catcher50 | August 23, 2007 12:35 PM

To DadfromNoVA, please come down to our neighborhood and walk around. Have you drivin down M St SW/SE in the past months? Have you flown out of National and looked across the Potomac at the construction cranes? It's not 5-10 years; it's now. Bring your family; we have families and we live here.

Posted by: Craig | August 23, 2007 12:41 PM

I cannot believe I read an article trying to compare Washington, DC to a burnt out rust belt city! Marc, really, that's TERRIBLE journalism. DC can be compared to:
Baltimore, Philadelphia, Atlanta, NYC, Boston and possibly Seattle and San Fran. Might compare us to Chicago, maybe Miami. Other than that, we're nothing like ANY manufacturing city, nothing like Los Angeles or the great suburban southern cities, nothing like much smaller cities.

Why not compare us to Frankfurt Germany, you know?

Posted by: Anonymous | August 23, 2007 12:45 PM

while perhaps no funds for schools, hospitals, the homeless, etc. were diverted for the stadium,
----

If that were remotely true it would be sad, but that's a major urban legend.

DC is a rich, wealthy city with more than adequate school funding.

People keep wanting to push DC back to the crack war circa 1989. That's almost 20 years ago. It's a city of rich yuppies in $300k condos and $800k houses. Just look at realtor sites instead of relying on rumors you remember from 20 years ago.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 23, 2007 12:47 PM

Dismissing people's fears of crime as racism is stupid. Crime in urban areas is very real. Ask anyone that lives in DC.

----

Ok, crime in DC is mostly mythical Hillman and you and I have disagreed on that fact for a long time. Methinks you live in a crime hotspot and refuse to move or form a neighborhood watch.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 23, 2007 12:51 PM

Well I think DC is a different situation than Cleveland, Detroit, and Cincinnati in 1 way but similar in another way.

Yes there is a difference in what the cities have going on in terms of promise, growth, and the amount of folks who want to invest in the cities. DC is on another stratosphere.

The similarities are the urban ills that inner city DC has just as Detroit, Cincy, and Cleveland has. There are strikingly changing have and have nots areas in DC more so than in those 3 midwest cities but the areas of have nots are the same EVERYWHERE.

Your typical baseball fan, suburbanite, and young professional around DC don't give a HOOT about DC revival outside of entertainment for them.
As far as the citizens who are suffering and will continue to potentially suffer, most readers really don't care.

Marc brought up a good point because he's showing compassion for the whole story not just a bunch of entertainment for suburbanites, baseball fans, and young professionals.

And Yes I live in the suburbs, am not a native, and mildly likes baseball so I'm not just your native DC guy shooting from the hip or complaining as many would say.

This is just reality in America.

Posted by: Bake | August 23, 2007 12:59 PM

I have to respond to two points from Catcher 50:

1. It is not true that the money would not exist but for the stadium. The fact is that the city could just have easily imposed a tax for the schools, or any other purpose. That we chose not to, and chose only to do it for baseball, is the very crux of the debate. Aside from the question of values, many of us would argue that a better education system is a much stronger generator of economic development than a baseball stadium. Whether more money for the schools is what is needed is, of course, a separate and worthwhile debate.

2. If your best argument for the economic impact of the stadium is that it will give tourists (who are already here -- face it, tourists aren't coming to DC for baseball) something else to do, then you have undercut your argument. Presumably, those tourists who are already here will be spending their money somewhere in DC, whether at the ballpark or elsewhere. If that spending shifts say, from a downtown restaurant to baseball, then it would be fair to expect the baseball team, not the city, to pay for the stadium that induces the spending shift.

The economic phenomenon of shifted spending has been well studied by economists. Read "Field of Schemes" or "Major League Losers."

Posted by: Meridian | August 23, 2007 1:36 PM

Public financing of stadiums is a scam, and trying to sell the notion that by having the public foot the bill we will all be rewarded with an improved infrastructure is not very honest to say the least. Why would anyone in their right mind want to finance the super rich? What exactly do we get for our money? The owners and players receive huge sums of money and the public gets high ticket prices, high food prices, etc. This is a good deal? Sure it is, but for who??

There was a reason the fans in Montreal were turned off and didn't support the public funding of a new stadium, and it certainly had nothing to do with not being a good baseball town. I remember a political figure in Montreal remarking about how the first chair violinist in the Montreal Symphony Orchestra was making 150K, while the Expos first baseman with a .236 batting average was making over 2 million, and MLB expects public funding for it's new stadium projects?! Wake up people, you're being fleeced out of your money by greedy multi-millionaires.

Posted by: An Ex-Expo fan | August 23, 2007 1:46 PM

Existing urban stadiums like Wrigley Field (near where I used to live) probably provide the most optimistic models and they aren't very optimistic. The area around Wrigley functions well, because other than few bars, few businesses are dependent on the ballpark and the stadium has functioned as a buffer between very different kinds of surrounding neighborhoods which have their own well developed business strips.

Jacobs Field in Cleveland (I'm a native) does draw people into anarea of downtown that has been moribund for decades and mostly had been given over to a mix of warehosung, small manufacturing, specialty retail and methadone treatment. There's also a historic cemetary nearby. The stadioum has lead to redevelopment of Prospect Avenue, which had always been the low end part of the old retail core and has been an area in decline for many years. Pawnshops and the like have largeley been replaced with bars & restaurants, but they don't seeem to have a stable daya-in, day-out trade and don't compete with the "Flats" area, earby which where nighlife has been centered for the past couple decades.

Stadiums generally have been failures as catalysts for development. They're only used for a limited number of days and , if anything, suck the life out their immediate neighborhoods when unused. The smartest development would involve uses that have nothing to do with a stadium and everything to do with providing other kinds of amenities and land uses.

Posted by: Rich | August 23, 2007 1:58 PM

Come on! Let's try to be positive!!!! So far things are developing rather well. The Navy Yard Metro station is much safer than it used to be and there are restaurants and bars poping up on 8th ST. It doesn't hurt that the DOT has a brand shinny new building right next door. Things are looking better so have hope!

Posted by: Worker Bee in SE DC | August 23, 2007 2:01 PM

In 10 years let's look back at what was and what is possible thanks to Anthony Williams.

Posted by: Give me a break | August 23, 2007 09:19 AM

I agree with your post and I think we will thank Anthony Williams and also the new guy, Fenty, despite his vehement opposition to the stadium. Those were not his best votes.

Posted by: KK | August 23, 2007 2:16 PM

Fisher is developing a really annoying habit of flacking, pushing and advocaating for a particular outcome and then after he gets it attempt to create cover for himself by saying, well you know there are problems with what we've done. THE most recent examples have been his strong support for Fenty and the baseball stadium. Now he tells us that Fenty's chief qualification seems to be his ability to run for office and well the stadium might not work.

Fisher needs to acknowledge the downside to the choices he champions while opinions are being formed and decisions are being made as well as he seems to be able to report and comment on why they might not work after the fact. Or maybe people ought to just stop listening to him.

Posted by: CW | August 23, 2007 2:41 PM

Your comparison to Cincinnati misses a couple key points. First, the Bengals threatened to leave if they didn't get a new stadium (previously, they shared the old Riverfront Stadium with the Reds). When the Bengals got a new stadium (and at the time were one of the worst teams in the NFL), the Reds, who had been in the city since 1906, cried foul and demanded a new stadium as well. So Cincy's stadium had a lot to do with another franchise.

I do agree that the city is holding up the development, that was supposed to happen along with the original baseball stadium construction. Let's hope DC doesn't have the same problem.

Also, the "interstate highway moat," as you call it, is a huge improvement over the old interstate. It was part of the deal to get the new stadiums. The interstate width was cut in half primarily due to the removal of a string of exits. The old road was completely traffic based; not at all pedestrian friendly. In fact, 2 rather ugly pedestrian bridges were built over the highway to allow people to get across. The new Fort Washington Way is a huge improvement over the old, even if it doesn't meet your high standards.

Posted by: Comparison to Cincy | August 23, 2007 3:02 PM

If you build it, he will come.

Posted by: The Voice | August 23, 2007 3:09 PM

i think many of you are missing Fisher's point here. i don't think he's saying it won't work, just that many economists believe that these downtown stadiums ALONE aren't the economic boon city officials sell the public on when extolling the benefits on public financing. the necessary surrounding business, hotels, restraunts and attractions all need to tie in to the same "plan" in order to be successful, like the places he points to in San Fran, Denver, and here with Verizon Center.

it's to bad he overlooked Houston becuase it's working there too, and also too bad his trip took him to lousy rust belt cities with great new ballparks. those cities downtown have always been ugly and empty at night and on weekends, and the city management seems to prefer it that way, as they did none of the added infrastructure to make a successful go of a "ballpark district".

Posted by: Dave @ Bottomfeeder Baseball | August 23, 2007 3:30 PM

It would help if the Nats could get some coverage. Every time I tune into WTEM they're into their latest Al Sharpton racial conspiracy theory or defending wife-beating, dog abusing rapists or murdering athletes. The second thing is for this area to stop cowtowing to that other team in Maryland. Baltimore despises us - why does the Post continue to treat their team as some sort of brother team for the area. They played hard ball with us by trying to keep a team out of D.C. and sticking the Nats with this Stalinist MASN deal - why not play hardball with them. NO ONE in this area should ever set foot in Camden. It's over.

Posted by: muskrat | August 23, 2007 4:03 PM

I am from Detroit, and you are absolutely right, the spillover never occurred, but that where the similarity ends. DC has a vibrant and growing community of people, offices, etc. I have already put the idea in to someone about opening up a new restaurant/bar (sports theme of course) near the new stadium, does the name "Honey Boy" ring a bell. With the new SE Federal Center next door, and more offices and condo being started (look at Navy Yard metro), this well turn out to be the best area in the city for entertainment and fun. I had the opportunity to walk around the stadium, the "new bridge", and around the area. You cannot help but be impressed by what's going on; Detroit was never in the running, sad but true.

Posted by: Detroiter | August 23, 2007 4:05 PM

Meridian seems to be one of those who manages to ignore reality.

Virtually every one of the "anti-stadium" studies narrows its focus to the point that it manages to ignore the whole picture, in those locations that use a stadium / arena as a part of a well thought out, integrated development plan. Also, they almost always point to stadiums that were mistakes, built in bad places, without any serious forethought.

No, no, no! That $600 million would not be available. Because suburban commuters cannot be taxed by the city, the stadium provides (as has been pointed out) about the only thing that can come close to a commuter tax.

Of course, the tourists don't come for baseball. What they often do, in the evening, is grab a quick, cheap (relatively) bite to eat and go to their hotel room. This will provide more opportunity to enjoy themselves and, by the way, add some more tax revenue to the city's coffers.

Posted by: Catcher50 | August 23, 2007 4:26 PM

where was this article two years ago before they started building?

Posted by: Anonymous | August 23, 2007 4:44 PM

Another consideration to your reading of the renaissance of Penn Quarter is to recognize that while the new Shakespeare Theatre on F St. is opening across from the Verizon Center, Abe Pollin wouldn't have considered moving to 7th St. without the Shakespeare Theatre at the Lansburgh having proved that the neighborhood was viable. The baseball stadium will create an opportunity for the Anacostia waterfront to thrive, but there will need to be a true diversity of entertainment options, including restaurants, galleries, and theatres for this experiment to succeed.

Posted by: ramseymanagement | August 23, 2007 4:47 PM

"face it, tourists aren't coming to DC for baseball"

Not true at all. Every year I have 20+ family members come into town for the Cubs series. They get hotel rooms downtown and in Arlington, go out to eat, buy tickets, etc. There may not be a big tourist crowd for a Tuesday night game against the Marlins, but there are certainly people coming in for baseball on the weekends and against some of the higher profile teams in the league.

Posted by: Wrong Meridian | August 23, 2007 4:59 PM

"where was this article two years ago before they started building?"

All over the Post and the web. Review Fishers chats from that period and you'll see how anti-stadium people were. Frankly, this is nothing new.

Posted by: Arlington, VA | August 23, 2007 5:00 PM

Dear Mr. Fisher: In spite of over 60 comments, a few points are missing.

First. Do not underestimate the fact that the Nats are owned by one of the regions leading real estate families. These people are smart and they have worked hard to develop the surrounding area by coaxing other developers to join in the overall plan.

Second. DC is still growing. There was going to be development in this area of the city even without baseball. The stadium concept works well if there is already a need for development.

Third. The team will be better. The product will improve. Washington loves a winner, or at the very least, a team that is comptetitive. Even though the fan base has not made the trip to RFK, sports fans are following the team in the media.

Fourth. Washington is a major league city. We will prove it.

Posted by: bob radano | August 23, 2007 5:22 PM

Great story -- but as a Washingtonian who's the #1 Cleveland sports fan -- it misses the point. The Jake and neighboring Gund did WONDERS for the area, with plenty of retail, bars, restaurants, etc. The area has gone downnhill again, but you should have seen what it was like BEFORE Jake/Gund -- it was nothing. And on game nights the area is much better than not...so is it a silver bulet? No. But in a depressed town like Cleveland, it beats the alternative

Posted by: Roger Cohen | August 23, 2007 5:30 PM

Can we send the DC area homeless people to Cleveland? They wouldn't even notice all the new bums.

Posted by: Officerjive | August 23, 2007 5:36 PM

Hey Muskrat,

Are you listening to the right station? The Nationals games are on 107.7 FM, 1500 AM or 820 AM, depending on where you live. It's Washington Post radio, if you didn't know. I've listened to almost every game this season. I also switched to FiOS, so I get both MASN and MASN2. I'm so glad to ditch Comcast. It really pissed me off that they held my Nats games hostage.

Posted by: sparks | August 23, 2007 6:29 PM

Catcher 50:

You are the one who refused to acknowledge reality. As several other posters have pointed out, every independent study of the subject ever undertaken has reached the same conclusion: that with very few exceptions, the economic benefits of baseball stadiums are exaggerated and do not justify the public investment in them. And the ones I have read, by Zimbalist and others, look at the subject comprehensively, not, as you say, just by focusing on certain projects.

As for the tax, the gross receipts tax being imposed for the baseball stadium could have just as legally been imposed for any other purpose. We chose not to. That is a policy decision, not a legal one.

Posted by: Meridian | August 23, 2007 6:37 PM

1. Why are Jouralists always so pessimistic, Obviously the guy who wrote this article was walking around cleveland in the middle of february when it was 10 degrees outside. If the leaders of the city weren't pursuing such projects they would be getting criticized for sleeping on the job and not having a plan. It is true that investing in Public Works does little to alleviate social ills, but the fact of the matter is that people will be buying beer and hotdogs at the stadium long after you're dead.
2. Have any of you people ever actually been to cleveland? It has probably the nicest downtown in the midwest. of course you'd actually have to get out of your cars and walk up and down the streets to realize that. Most cities are nothing but bare parking lots and institutional looking office buildings; apart from the "magnificent mile" I'm not sure chicago even has sidewalks. Obviously cleveland looks like crap when all you see is a parking garage, but thats because as a tourist you don't know your way around. Case in point "the flats" as everyone keeps refering to is the circa 1988 entertainment district that was plowed under last year to make way for a 200 million dollar apartment complex along the river. Apart from that theres about a billion and a half dollars worth of other development projects underway right now. Secondly, those of you who are so smug about the rust belt compared to your young outerbelt cities are going to be choking to death on gas mileage in about a decade or so. I can't wait till the bums start hanging around the vacant strip mall surrounding wall mart and harrassing you on the way to applebees.

Posted by: Clevelander | August 23, 2007 7:03 PM

I will not go over all the apple/orange arguments regarding the comparison between DC and rust belt stadiums. However, I would like to dispell some of the "facts" that have been cited by the stadium nay-sayers.

Regaring the research that allegedly says that stadiums do not produce economic development, the commenter failed to recognize the basis for that conclusion. While the researchers said that building stadiums does not produce economic benefits for the regions they serve, they did say that new stadiums shift where consumers spend their entertainment dollars.

The difference here is that a DC stadium would not shift entertainment dollars from other parts of DC, but from Maryland and Virginia. So, even though the stadium will not, by itself increase spending on entertainment in the DC region, it will put dollars in DC coffers that would otherwise go to the adjoining states. Bottom line, DC wins by getting the Nats in DC.

Posted by: Weiant | August 23, 2007 7:27 PM

At first I was for it, but now I could give a crap. It is too expensive to do these things with your family. It is also a hassle. I liked going to Senators and Skins games when I was a kid. They were cheap and you could talk to and hear the guy next to you!!!! You could also park at the stadium and get home in 10 minutes! To hell with the nightmares that goes along with attending a Redskin or National game.
The only "benefit" I was to get out of this stadium deal was a gay couselman's desire for displaced gay businesses to be concentrated in my neighborhood. Gee, thanks whatsyourname!

Fail? Yes, I am praying it does!

From a former fan and taxpayer too!!!

Posted by: johng1 | August 23, 2007 8:00 PM

DC is, at best, an AA baseball town. Building the park where they did is not going to attract the "subway" crowd. The location is quite a ways from ONE subway stop. Parking will probably cost a fortune and getting in and out of the area will be a nightmare.

A number of posters are correct, fix the schools and attract higher income people to live in DC. Then you can think about sports. I imagine the next thing will be that they will tear down RFK and the new stadium will house the football team, leaving PG County with another white elephant.

Posted by: Baseball? | August 23, 2007 8:31 PM

The "suburban visitors" of which I am also a part of seem to be an even greater majority of the fan base then the percentage of suburban to urban population in this area, if that were even possible. Maybe thats because a greater percentage of the baseball watching demographic who is actually from this area lives in the suburbs and would root for a DC team, but every game I've gone to, I notice that like 95% of the cars are from Virginia. I know that many people in the District and other metro accessible locations can take metro, but there are plenty of metro inaccessible neighborhoods in DC and what about Maryland? Football games at FedEx are closer to 50/50 VA to MD but I still think I see more Va. license plates.

Posted by: xtr657 | August 23, 2007 8:49 PM

Go Nats. They might suck this year, but this city loves em. The new stadium is going to be sick!

Posted by: Devo | August 23, 2007 11:56 PM

It seems to me, as a Clevelander, that Mr. Fisher walked in the wrong direction from his Hotel Room. Walk even tow blocks form the stadium ... and you hit E. 4th Street, a thriving mixed use development of retail, restaurants and residences, 10 years in the making. Without the public investment of the Gateway Sports Complexes, would the Maron Family (the developers who invested in and fixed up 100+ year old buildings) even have started it? Furthermore, w/o Jacobs Field, anothe local developer (Zarmeba) would never have moved from the suburbs to a building right next to Jacobs Field, bringing jobs, and ultimately developing The Avenue District, the largest downtown condominium project in Ohio

Jacobs Field is critical to the fostering of Downtown Cleveland as an Urban Neighborhood.

Posted by: ClevelandDC | August 24, 2007 9:49 AM

WHAT STREETS DID YOU GO ON. CLEVELAND HAS MORE THEN 20 RESTURANTS IN WALKING DISTANCE FROM JACOBS. FAT FISH BLUE, BONEYARD, 34 OTHERS IN THE GATEWAY AREA
http://www.cleveland.com/dining/index.ssf?list=1&calling_form=searchbox&type=&loc=180&x=39&y=0

AND AROUND 200 PLACES DOWNTOWN

Posted by: ROB | August 24, 2007 10:25 AM

What's missing: talk of the longtime residents of DC. The ones whose FAMILIES are from here. Not singles who have (no doubt temporarily) moved from Detroit, Cleveland, Cincinatti, wherever. But rooted families. Also, all along it was obvious that great teams or franchises start from the bottom up. There is absolutely no substitute for having base support of the local, longtime population. None whatsoever. The Nationals never had it. You absolutely cannot build a great team or franchise on an IDEA, on a way to spur development, and so on. No way. That is why at best, the Nationals will just sort of hobble along until some real city with real base support and desire comes along and buys them, and by that time whoever is Mayor and whatever sellouts are on the CC will say good riddance.

Posted by: yellowbowl | August 24, 2007 11:13 AM

Getting a perception of Cleveland from suburban blowhards like Dick Feagler and Connie Schultz from the Plain Dealer is a bad move by whoever this guy is that wrote this article. Feagler is a 70 year old former Cleveland resident who last lived in the city 50 years ago and complains that he can't get free and convenient parking in the middle of the city for his Buick Regal, and Schultz is a soccer mom that tries to describe what ails the inner city black population from the comfort of her plastic clad exurb nightmare.
These two have absolutely no credibility with any city dweller in Cleveland and are completely out of touch with the realities and progress our gritty urban landscape has made in recent years. FYI, there's more than $2,000,000,000 under construction or on the immediate drawing board in the city.
As for the guy who said there is absolutely nothing around Jacob's Field, dude, walk towards the skyline not the freeway ramps. There's like 50 bars/clubs/restaurants in 1/2 square mile.
Oh yeah, Raw Fisher? Very clever.

Posted by: ht82w | August 24, 2007 1:54 PM

DC is VERY lucky to have the federal government there forever, because that is, more or less the city's main industry. The government will never go out of business or leave town. DC is no different from Cleveland in that if its main industry were to leave town (which it won't) it'd be even more pathetic.

Cleveland has had extremely poor leadership for the last 40+ years (They voted Kucinich as mayor and saw him bankrupt the city) and that likely won't change because all the bright young minds have left town thanks to the city dying.

Posted by: Krane44 | August 24, 2007 2:52 PM

Response to Craig, above: Cleveland DOES have a rail system (the Rapid,) and Cincinnati is considering one. Detroit only has the people-mover downtown, which has low ridership because of its small size and limited geographic scope.

In response to Fisher's article and more generally to the comments about how Jacob's Field has failed to revitalize Cleveland's downtown, all I can say is that you must not have been to the city in the 70s and 80s when it was truly hurting. 20 years ago, downtown was absolutely terrible. Today, it might not be like San Francisco or DC's downtowns, but it's much better and improving every day with new housing, restaurants, and retail.

Much of the reason for the lack of street life in downtown Cleveland is because it traditionally has not been a residential neighborhood. That is changing today, partly because of the success of Jacob's Field and the rest of the Gateway project. Before Gateway, we had check cashing places and homeless shelters, and now E. 4th street is buzzing with new restaurants and concert venues, condos and apartments are springing up everywhere, and the population of downtown is projected to double between now and 2010. Things are coming together, so don't worry about us!

To the residents of DC- you have an artificial economy. The government won't let itself go out of business or shrink, and the related industries will continue to expand. Despite what Fisher thinks, Gateway has been a modest success for Cleveland, and as our economy continues to recover and begins to grow again, Jacob's Field will continue to attract businesses around it. A park for the Nationals will see this kind of revitalization, but at a much faster pace. I say go for it!

Posted by: CLE123 | August 24, 2007 3:11 PM

Krane44, you obviously don't know anything about Cleveland's bankruptcy. Read up on Muny Light, and you'll learn that City Council forced the city into bankruptcy because Kucinich wouldn't renege on one of his campaign promises, namely, not to sell Municipal Light to Cleveland Electric Illuminating. How often do you see politicians in DC holding to their campaign promises? That's what I thought.

Also, the city is not dying, despite what you think. We're losing manufacturing jobs here, but so is the rest of the country. Healthcare, banking, and law are all growing industries in Cleveland, and there's an explosion of new development both downtown and in the city neighborhoods. Look up Battery Park, Gordon Square, Flats East Bank, Stonebridge, the Avenue District, Park Lane Villa condos, Tyler Village... The list goes on and on.

Oh, and fyi- 18-30 year-olds made up the fastest growing demographic in Cleveland for the first half of the decade. So much for the bright, young minds leaving, huh?

Posted by: CLE123 | August 24, 2007 3:19 PM

I suggest you research your articles more thoroughly Marc. To say that Jacobs Field failed to improve and spur development in downtown Cleveland is a gross mischaracterization. Before the construction of Jacobs Field and the adjacent Quicken Loans Arena, this area of downtown was being hastily razed to create surface parking lots, and trust me, NO ONE came here. The complex was built upon these barren lots and included provisions deterring developers from tearing down anymore of the historic buildings in the neighborhood.

The huge public investment that was the Gateway sports complex absolutely revitalized downtown Cleveland. In an area that was once characterized by prostitution and drug dealers, you now have a neighborhood that you can actually bring your family for dinner and to enjoy a ballgame. There are condos, restaurants, bars, and a decent amount of nightlife in the area; especially compared to what this place once was. Development continues, but these things take time.

The Jacobs Field project has been an absolute success for the city of Cleveland and the surrounding region. More importantly than sparking some new development, this stadium actually CHANGED PEOPLE'S PERCEPTIONS OF THE CITY. It brought the city actual civic pride for the first time in a long time. And people began to realize that downtown was a place they could experience, enjoy, and want to come back to. This project, while not perfect, is a ringing success for the city of Cleveland.

But it really is only a baseball stadium. It can only do so much to spur economic development. It cannot solve social ills. Anyone looking for a magic "cure-all" should look elsewhere, while flashy and sellable, stadiums are an expensive tool to make a city look good, they typically don't tackle any root problems of decline.

Posted by: Architrance | August 27, 2007 12:03 PM

what does this stadium have to do with washington, dc? no more than the washingtonian magazine covers the city...
i hope my suburban neighbors enjoy their new playtoy ....

(*&^%$!!%


Posted by: reuben | August 28, 2007 9:45 AM

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Thank you!

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Posted by: wholesale | December 6, 2007 3:17 AM

Clevleand
lol - cleveland thriving with wonderful new developments....battery park?? stonebridge?
they still cant find enough people to move their even with tax abatements
they are shoddy construction....look up the angry blogs of former residents...overpriced (people who bought cant leave the crap boxes built)
better yet VISIT these thriving communities as you pass through the foreclosed capital ( i think cle is in the top 5 righth now)

Posted by: fredbeene | December 22, 2007 7:47 PM

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