Fair Ball

Crimson was right a few weeks ago regarding the taxpayer financing of sports stadiums, but I've got to take issue with a couple of points made. Stadiums don't "require massive parking lots" and the "challenge of dealing with 60,000 sports fans in one place at a time" is something that dense urban environments deal with particularly well, especially if they are designed to do so. For more on that topic, I point you to a slim volume called City Baseball Magic by Chicago architect Phillip Bess. It's a quick read, but fans of places like Wrigley Field, Fenway Park, Camden Yards, and Pacific Park (my term, I can't keep track of the name changes) as well as those who simply love cities, will really enjoy it. A shorter article on the topic by Bess appears here.

Unlike Crimson, I happen to think Jerry Brown's lack of support for a downtown A's ballpark was one of the biggest mistakes he made as Hizzoner. But the return of Robert Bobb has me a bit more optimistic than V Smoothe, but only a bit. After all, Bobb is here to fix our city finances, not keep the A's in town. But maybe because Dellums is so inept as mayor AND quite simply doesn't get cities, Bobb can reposition himself atop the Oakland power structure. Though the basic problem is that Lew Wolff doesn't want a ballpark, he wants a real estate development. And after the Forest City Uptown boondogle (hurts my eyes just thinking about it), there just aren't many sites in downtown Oakland for a large real estate development. Nor would you want it.

The benefit of having a ballpark downtown is in the spillover effects to the surrounding area. But this requires numerous property owners, with, you know, like markets and competition and stuff. Give one entity control of the whole thing and you get Fruitvale Village, Bay Street, or... well, Uptown.

I still love the triangle-shaped site at 27th & Broadway proposed by Marine Layer a while back. The site is just a little too small, which of course makes it perfect, and it is close to BART, but not too close. If only Wolff wanted to be a baseball team owner with a cool urban stadium, rather than a crummy suburban real estate developer.

UPDATE: Marine Layer found the images of the proposal for 27th & Broadway, so retry that link above.


Anonymous said...

Er... so why is Forrest City a noteworthy boondoggle?

It might not be a work of art but the images on their site look OK, and heck... it's 'certified' green!

What (admittedly few) exterior shots there are on their site makes it look fairly typical, not outstandingly bad or good.

Then again the interior shots seem to be really focused on furniture.... that's prolly not a good sign....

Jeffrey said...

How would the ballpark at Broadway and 27th be paid for?

Raymond Johnson said...

Forest City is a boondogle for many reasons, and the images on the website paint it in the best possible light. The massing is a hodgepodge, the brick is awful, and the relationship to the street is odd in many places. It doesn't get a pass because it is green, so too could better alternatives, and you could make the argument that being blocks from BART, it should be denser. I'll try to expand on this in a furture post.

Raymond Johnson said...

Ideally any new ballpark would be privately financed, because public financing amounts to subsidizing rich owners. But I believe it is worth looking at subsidies to locate the ballpark in the right place. A downtown ballpark would spur tons of development (in a more beneficial, dispersed way) than would a more suburban location that would be much more auto-dependent and any ancillary development would likely be controlled by the same party, resulting in a more anti-market situation.

Crimson said...

Hi, I just came across your blog, and your comments are interesting. I do think it's possible to have a baseball stadium that works well in a city--Wrigley Field is a good example. I just think that it's a challenge, and politicians seem to act like it's a magic bullet. From my own experience, a good grocery store is a much safer bet for building a community than a new stadium. (Just my observation from seeing the effects of the new Trader Joe's and Farmer Joe's.)