Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Nashville Sounds owner finally attends a community meeting for the community funding his new ballpark; for 18 whole minutes.

Just got back from the "community meeting" the Nashville Sounds and the Gobbell Hayes ballpark design team sponsored to announce progress and to show a "3D" video of the "ballpark experience". It barely lasted 15 minutes, and no questions or comments were allowed from the floor at the end. You could fill out a comment card and hope that someone would get back to you later.

What jumped out of the video immediately was that the only places where the "Sulphur Dell" name was in plain sight were in framed archival prints hanging in the luxury suites. It was no where else to be seen inside the ballpark. Project managers told the press in June that "Sulphur Dell" would be "considered" near the batter's eye in centerfield, which makes it sound like fans inside the ballpark would see it (assuming it ever moves from "considered" to "approved"). In the video, the title of the historic site appears outside the park, facing the mixed use development behind the outfield, on the backside of the batter's eye. No one seated in the park will ever be able to read it. The venerable old name deserves a better fate.

The backside of the batter's eye resembles a tombstone

In a significant departure from last October's community meeting, project managers called the entrance facing Jefferson St. "The Grand Entry" and the video narration underscored that the home plate entrance would be the main entrance to First Tennessee Park. Last year, Metro planners conceded that most of the questions they fielded from neighbors of the ballpark concerned the Jackson St. (north) entrance, which would likely encourage driving fans to take up diminishing street parking in Germantown and Salemtown. Their reply to the questions expressed the hope that Downtown parking garages would encourage people to park south of the park and enter from the outfield.

No part of tonight's presentation mentioned the south entry for fans parking Downtown. Instead, the video promoted the north "home plate" entry, making it seem irresistible. Three of the four neighborhood associations in the North Capitol area expressed unqualified support for this development from beginning to end. Germantown, Hope Gardens, and Historic Buena Vista all had chances to try and stipulate parking requirements as part of Erica Gilmore's legislation. Now it is probably too late to do anything. As I wrote last October, team ownership will be interested in protecting the "fan experience", and they will encourage parking wherever they can stuff them in. Tonight's presentation did nothing to change my sense that parking is going to get bad in the neighborhoods on event nights at First Tennessee Park.

Now that the Nashville Sounds have finally showed up to a community meeting, I want to go back over the quality-of-life checklist I came up with last September on questions that deserve to be answered for the sake of our community. Did the Sounds offer anything new?

  1. "Complete Streets" and parking?

  2. The Sounds presentation included nothing with respect to street planning that encourages walking and biking as much as automobile traffic. The emphasis on the "grand entry" indicates that the Sounds do not plan to offer solutions for their neighbors to relieve a choked parking situation. A project manager said that the greenway (which replaces a state public greenway) would be contained in the ballpark. So, is that one less greenway for pedestrians to use on days games won't be played? Is it just me or does the new greenway resemble the standard apartment complex courtyard?

  3. The North Nashville Community Plan?

  4. The design team at least made an effort last October to discuss the integration of the ballpark into the Germantown neighborhood. Nothing was said this time about the North Nashville neighborhoods. So, why should they care about the community plan? The Sounds have been given an empty canvas as well as Karl Dean's blank checks. They have license to do as they please.

  5. Flood mitigation and neighborhood impact?

    I heard no mention of the impact of catastrophic flood water displacement in the future caused by flood resistant mixed-use built on historic flood plain. This is bad news for those of us who were either flooded or had near misses in May 2010.

  6. Mass transit strategy?

  7. Unlike in October, Gobbell Hayes project managers did not discuss any mass transit arrangement with Metro. Without public pressure on elected officials, why would they?

  8. Jobs strategy?

    I could not tell from tonight's meeting whether the Sounds plan to hire anyone outside of seasonal ushers to show people to their luxury boxes to enjoy archival prints of working-class Sulphur Dell.

  9. Youth programs and service opportunities?

  10. Do the Sounds care about North Nashville's youth? I could not tell from this meeting.

To call tonight's meeting a "community meeting" was a stretch. Everything that happened could have been watched on YouTube. There was no need to create the slightest impression that community concerns and feedback were important to the design team or to Sounds ownership.

UPDATE: I was interested to see a news piece earlier this week on the challenges of finding reliable parking downtown. MDHA has a parking garage in the works to try to help relieve the strain. The article becomes relevant to First Tennessee Park with this comment:

“Some things are so obvious that you don’t need to do an analysis or science project. If you want to find out why we’re doing this, go downtown at 8 tonight and try finding a place to park,” said MDHA Executive Director Jim Harbison.

Remember that last fall, Metro planners and project designers working on the ballpark proposal told us that that they believed downtown parking could accommodate crushes of fans attending night games. The director of the Metro agency brokering deals for parking garages does not seem to agree. Think about where ball game traffic that won't fit downtown is most likely to go.

1 comment:

  1. This is a good post with attention to real issues. Personally, I think you've beaten the naming (Sulphur Dell) thing into the ground.

    I don't think you've addressed noise at nighttime, though.