"No one has ever said 'hey, let's go hang out in the area around the stadium...'" -John Oliver
I remembered the line above as I read the first paragraphs from a story by the Miami Herald's David Smiley in this morning's paper:
It’s a crystal clear Wednesday night. The Miami Marlins just drubbed the Boston Red Sox 14-6. And right about now, thirsty baseball fans should be pouring out of Marlins Park and into Ysbel Medina’s sports bar two blocks away.
That’s what Medina envisioned when he says he plunged $700,000 into the Batting Cage on Northwest Seventh Street and timed its opening with the Marlins’ first season at their $639 million ballpark in Little Havana. But the 26,000 fans leaving in streams large enough to snarl traffic are mostly walking into the surrounding neighborhood toward their cars — not the businesses that Miami’s politicians and the team said would thrive in the Marlins’ shadow.
“The Marlins ...” says Medina, whose bar is mostly empty, save a few stragglers drinking draft beers and eating cheeseburgers. “Man, the Marlins. I don’t know what to say about them.”
Well into a fourth disappointing season in the new stadium, little has changed in the surrounding neighborhood. Predictions that restaurants, cafeterias and hotels would open around the publicly funded park have proved false. The area surrounding the stadium is still pocked with small strip malls, empty lots, vacant buildings and affordable housing. Even the city-owned retail stores in the parking garages surrounding the stadium remain mostly empty.
So as Miami’s politicians once again negotiate to build a sports stadium on the former site of the Orange Bowl, there is talk about what a Major League Soccer franchise would mean for fans and Miami’s global brand, but little boasting about how a second professional sports franchise will share the wealth with its neighbors.
A little further down in his story, Smiley writes: "But now that Miami Beckham United has settled on city land across 16th Avenue from Marlins Park as the site of their future stadium, no one is claiming the surrounding community will see a sudden renaissance if soccer comes to town."
I guess someone in this town is finally getting the message.
In July 1988, as the Miami Arena prepared to open on the edge of Overtown, Miami Heat co-owner Zev Bufman, told the Miami News, "upscale bars and restaurants" would soon dot the area around the Arena and "the streets will bustle with nightlife."
Eleven years after the Arena opened, the Miami Herald reported, "the arena attracted little investment besides subsidized housing and a sports bar that failed. Downtown stayed desolate after dark."
Twenty years after it opened, the Miami Arena was torn down.
Elsewhere, however, some still haven't gotten the message.
Yesterday the New York Times published a story headlined "Bucks’ Owners Win, at Wisconsin’s Expense."
[Republican presidential candidate] Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill Wednesday to subsidize the arena, which could cost the public twice as much as originally projected. Echoing the owners’ arguments, the governor proclaimed that the arena, a practice complex and a promised “entertainment district” would spur a renaissance for downtown Milwaukee and attract tourists. Income taxes paid by the pro athletes, the governor said, would fill local coffers.One reader of the New York Times story posted this comment: "Will the owners be drug tested before getting public money like Walker wants to do for food stamp and welfare recipients?"