Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Days 7-8 - Believe me, not your lying eyes!

Greetings on Days 7-8 from Los Angeles, Calif., where apparently some yahoo utility worker with a $3.99 pair of wire cutters can put a million people in the dark. Gas is at $2.85 a gallon in the OC to $3.13 near the OJ. But the nagging question remains, “If oil prices are falling, why haven’t pump prices reflected that?” Oh, well, why would the consumer actually get a break these days?
Having just visited San Diego, one of the places we drove through was the Gaslamp Historic District in downtown San Diego. Once again, it is everything that downtown Dallas is NOT – vibrant, crowded and active. And much of the activity centers around the new baseball stadium built in that zone – Petco Park, home the National League Padres.
For several square blocks, this section of San Diego is thick as thieves with restaurants of every conceivable genre (including more Irish pubs than perhaps Boston or the Emerald Isle itself), shops, art galleries, apparel stores and other kind of businesses. One of the best known restaurants is Croce’s, owned and operated by the widow of the late singer Jim Croce (“Operator,” “Bad Bad Leroy Brown”) and serves as a tribute to his memory. There is a quality restaurant and a live music venue featuring the likes of son AJ Croce, Rita Coolidge and other top-flight entertainers. Down the street is the House of Blues.
The world-famous San Diego Zoo is located in Balboa Park, one of America’s great central gathering sites. Most of the city’s museums and located there plus the stunning Casa de Balboa, which has to be seen to be believed. Whatever Dallas thinks it can create along the Trinity River can never, EVER be what already can be found at Balboa Park, Grant Park, Central Park and countless other proven urban plans.
Observers of social science and economics can pontificate all they wish about the pros and cons of stadium funding. Obviously, it would be better of such facilities were built with private dollars than any kind of taxpayer help. But the benefits seem overwhelming in favor of the kind of redevelopment and energizing these things brings to the tourist-entertainment table.
It is not unlike the old burlesque joke about the wife coming into the bedroom and catching her husband in bed with a naked woman.
“What is that woman doing in my bed?” the wife screams.
“What woman; there’s no one here,” the husband says in the most monotone voice.
“THAT WOMAN! Right there!” the wife shouts, pointing an accusatory finger at the naked blonde trying to covert up with the sheets.
“There’s no one here I tell you,” he says calm as a cucumber. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
In her most shrill voice, as her face contorts, with veins sticking out like licorice sticks, the wife shouts, “I know what I see. That woman right there!”
The husband sits upright and look his wife straight in the eye and answers, “Who are you going to believe? Me or your lying eyes?”
Figures might state one case but as a traveler, my eyes show me another reality. Cities like Cleveland, Baltimore, Houston, Atlanta, Oklahoma City … and San Diego have active center city/downtown business and entertainment regions, centered around the construction and attendance at a baseball stadium. If you multiply 82 days (and nights) times 30,000 fans, then you begin to understand the potential of such a people magnet.
It will never happen for Dallas. Twice, the opportunity slipped from the fingers of city leaders – in 1972 when the Washington Senators moved and the late 1980s when Rangers ownership wanted a new stadium. In both instances, downtown Dallas was never the answer even though it was the remedy.
San Antonio, because of its transient military basis, is the largest American city without either a major league baseball or NFL franchise (let’s NOT move the New Orleans Saints there on a permanent basis; it isn’t fair to that ravaged city). The Alamo City, which has pushed past Dallas in population, has never gained national respect as a sports town. However, Dallas has neither a major league nor an NFL franchise within ITS borders (soon to be an Arlington address for the Rangers AND Cowboys).
Meanwhile, the West End and Deep Ellum are dwindling in terms of attendance. Something needs to have been done but it’s too late now. There are as many reasons NOT to visit downtown Dallas as there are to visit any part of San Diego. And they, my friends, are numerous.

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