Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Reporter asks grown-up questions about the proposed ballpark and its impact on the Germantown neighborhood

In America we worship the novel. We bow to the next, big thing. The new bauble that captures our attention and curiosity. And what is true about America is triply true of Nashville. The culture here will wipe the old completely away in a mad dash to get to that next, big thing (and sometimes make the new look old to rationalize the obliteration).

So, naturally, when the Mayor dangles a new ballpark in front of us, we're smitten. And the news media no less.

Except that the Nashville Post's sports commentator, J.R. Lind is already asking questions, to his credit:

The very practical how-do-we-pay-for-it question has yet to be answered, with the mayor's office saying they aren't ready to share it, though if they truly have been talking about a Sulphur Dell site since Opening Day in April, there's reason to believe they have a pretty good idea of the funding mechanism. All anyone is saying is that the Sounds will make a significant contribution (what that means is, naturally, left vague) with the balance to be paid by...taxpayers? Local businesses in the form of some kind of fee? A TIF ["Tax Increment Financing"]? We don't know.

Generally, the idea of putting sports facilities in places where people either will go if they have a reason or already go is a good idea. The business owners on Lower Broadway are more than happy to tell you how much more robust their revenues are on nights when the Predators are at the arena. Putting the stadium on Jackson Avenue builds a bit of a bridge to Germantown with its restaurants and so forth. But Germantown is a residential area in a way downtown is not. Injecting 17,000 people into the entertainment district of Lower Broad 41 nights a year is one thing. Injecting 8,400 into a largely residential area 70-some-odd times a summer is a whole 'nother can of bananas.

Philosophically, one wonders when all the Nexting stops. Less than a week after news of the ballpark leaked, Mayor Karl Dean announced plans for further riverfront development. There was no breather, no delay. There's an $80 million Sulphur Dell project and a $30 or $40 million project on the river. How many things does downtown need? When will downtown stop needing new things?

These are important questions to which those of us who are immediately affected by a new ballpark should demand Hizzoner's answers. Those of us in Salemtown will feel the "Nexting" impact, too We have to hold the Mayor's Office responsible for handling our future responsibly and not just opportunistically.

UPDATE:  I recently spoke with a business owner in the area who expressed concern that businesses within the new ballpark campus itself could actually drain patrons away from our neighborhood businesses before, during, and after games in the summertime.

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