Volume 2, Number 5 -- May, 1997
The Stadium Question
By Dean Shutt
Even though I call this column Fun & Games, I will occasionally venture into not-so-fun topics. Today is one of those occasions. Today we're going to talk about stadiums - arenas, ballparks, whatever you want to call them. Currently in the Bay Area, we're undergoing a stadium renovation boom. In the past few years, we have expanded one, are totally rebuilding another and are about to start construction on a third. This doesn't even take into account the new football stadium the Niner's are trying to put together.
I have seen and heard every conceivable argument for and against publicly-funded sports stadiums in these past few years. They should build their own. We can't be a big-league city without them. It's a sound business decision. It's a lame business decision. It will create jobs. It won't create jobs. You name it, we have heard it. It seems though, that all of those arguments miss the point. The only argument that really matters in all of this is do you want professional sports in the Bay Area or not.
If you want professional sports to remain in the area, then you had better build them pretty much whatever they want. You can be sure that there will be any number of cities lining up to do just that. It is sort of like dating. If you aren't willing to shell out the bucks and the effort to remain attractive to your significant other, then don't be shocked when she runs off with someone who will.
Sports teams are the prettiest girl in class and everyone wants a date. Don't want to give your local nine a state-of-the-art retro ballpark? Fine, the trucks can be on their way to Tallahasee or wherever inside of an hour. Don't want to pay an extra ten bucks a year in taxes? That's cool, Sacramento has been hyperventilating while waiting for a chance to steal your football team. Once you decide you are going to date the prettiest girl in class, you had best not plan on taking her miniature golfing.
I have to admit, I have certain amount of respect for San Francisco's attitude. The "big-league city" argument doesn't work real well in The City. San Franciscans are well aware that they live in one of the greatest cities in the world. It isn't all that frightening for them to imagine life without the Giants or the Niners. They figure, and I would say quite correctly, that they will be able to fill their evenings and Sundays whether they have sports or not. The big league argument might work in a place like Raleigh, who's night life consists of Herb's Bar & Grill. But San Francisco? You wander around the Castro on a Saturday afternoon and see far more interesting sights than an entire season's worth of Giant's baseball.
Don't get me wrong, I always vote for the stadium proposals, no matter how outlandish. I like sports and I want to have a local team to go and see. One of my tests for living in area is whether or not they have a representative from all four major sports. It's just that I can understand the other side as well. The only people that really bother me in all of this are the whiners. The guys that love sports and go to the games but don't want to shell out that ten bucks a year to keep the team in town. Do these people honestly believe that any team is going to hang around because the fans are so loyal? Here's a hint, folks: talk to Cleveland about loyalty. They sold out their sewer of a stadium to watch a bad Browns team for how many years in a row? What did they get for their loyalty? A snickers commercial and an expansion team in `99. Cleveland served notice to everyone that currently has a professional sports franchise in their midst. Put up or shut up. You can be as loyal as you want, but in the end it's all about the money. There is an alternative to all of this madness, of course. As far as the big leagues go, we could all move to Green Bay. That is a team that understands treating it's fans with respect. That's because the fans own the team. The only way the Pack leaves Green Bay is in the proverbial pine box. As long as the Packers exist they will be the Green Bay Packers, a rather comforting outpost in a rather mercenary landscape.
Your other alternative is the minor leagues. The longevity of minor league teams isn't really all that much better than their bigger brethren. The difference is that you don't need to give them tons of money for a shiny new stadium every five years and you don't have to listen to a pack of whiny millionaires on a regular basis. Most importantly, the beer is about half of what you would pay at a major league sporting event.
I wonder if they have a minor league team in Green Bay.?.?...