Friday, January 30, 2009

Maritime Park, part 2

A continuation of the discussion of the maritime park....

Not that many people will go to baseball games. Why build the field?

I have heard many variations to this question. It is the sticking point of the project for most people.

The more variety of things, the greater the variety of people who are drawn to the maritime park, the more successful it will be.

I've heard "multi-use" batted around, and many have suggested that the park will only in the end be used for baseball. What is interesting, though, is that parks that are owned or operated by the team tend to be less used than those owned by the city. The city has many reasons to keep the park occupied, while baseball teams are more reluctant to let folks mess up their field. Other cities, like Round Rock, TX; Reading, PA; Frisco, TX; and Lansing, MI, have a great range of activities at their fields. Baseball clinics for the YMCA, exhibition games, charity events, birthday parties, boy scout camp outs, movies, and concerts.

Each of these events draws a different group of people, on nights that the baseball team isn't playing, to provide activity in the area, patrons for the restaurants, customers for the store. When you combine these activities with the maritime museum and other events that might be hosted in the park, you end up with a vibrant location.

I remember that during the planning stages of the park there was talk about a retractable outfield wall. I had known that something had changed and thought it was gone. However, the idea is alive and well, with a plan that the outfield wall will be a series of openable gates. When there isn't an event, the field will be open to the public. Some multiuse parks have playgrounds (even a swimming pool and rockwall) along the edges, and, while I don't yet know what similar amenities this park might have, these would be accessible when the field is open.

By locating the park downtown, there is a sacrifice of convenience--no easy highway access. However, you get the return on the proximity of other venues and decreased need for additional parking. I am most familiar with Fenway Park in Boston, which is right in the heart of town. The parking garages that handle the crowds double as parking for the nearby office buildings, which otherwise are empty at game times. When you go to the game, though there is something nice about stadium food, you had the option of a whole host of restaurants. When people come to a game in downtown Pensacola, the experience will be beyond the game--they might stroll afterward along the waterfront, perhaps stop at the museum beforehand, go out of dinner, or otherwise enjoy downtown Pensacola.

But what if none of these events interest you? You will still benefit. By providing a steady stream of people, the stadium will encourage restaurants and retail to locate there. We are blessed in Pensacola with many beautiful venues where we can look out over the water. The maritime park is no exception. By having the events, we will generate foot traffic, which will increase the safety of the park, making it one of the best places to enjoy the beautiful environment here.

Even those who don't expect to go to many games may just indulge every once in a while. Tickets to Pelicans' games are currently $9. There is just something wholesome about a ballgame. Perhaps you'll take family when they come to town for a visit to the museum, dinner, a game, and a walk along our incomparable waterfront.

I look forward to sharing with you further details about the new agreement that is being hashed out for bringing this great park to fruition. Please share with me any other questions you have about the park.