Vincent Safuto’s Weblog

Notes and observations

Sports will save us – and other myths

In the unincorporated municipality of Lakewood Ranch, which straddles State Road 70 east of Bradenton, Fla., there used to be a street with an absurdly ironic name.

Center Ice Parkway.

But if you drove near Center Ice Parkway, you might be confused. There was no skating rink or sports arena nearby. If you had come by a few months earlier, you would have seen four large concrete “somethings” deteriorating in the sunshine. Eventually, they were knocked down, and now there’s nothing there.

The plan had been to build an ice rink, hence the name Center Ice Parkway. There would have been a minor league hockey team playing there, and the economic boom that was sure to follow – as it has always followed pro sports – would create literally thousands of good-paying with benefits jobs, and the benefits would ripple out into the community, the region, the state, etc. In the Stadium Game, you’ve heard it a million times before, right?

It’s a perennial in the Stadium Game that sports will turn around the morale of a dying town. Factories moving to China or Mexico? Look, the team is winning, so let’s forget about our destroyed lives and feel good about ourselves. (Would you believe, that was the premise of the 1977 movie “Slap Shot”? Seriously, 34 years ago.)

Politicians still fall for the “Slap Shot” maneuver, and a recent article in Salon titled “Beware of vampire squids and their stadium schemes” describes how great promises were made about an arena in Louisville, Ky. By the way, be careful about going to Salon. Its website is full of nasty tricks and pop-up ads.

In the Jan. 22, 2005, issue of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, columnist Doug Fernandes asked: “Holy cow, where’s the arena?

On Nov. 7, 2009, reporter Halle Stockton wrote the epitaph, “Failed Lakewood Ranch hockey arena demolished”.

In tough times, it’s easy to be conned by sports promoters who invariably pitch “can’t-miss” schemes, virtually all of which involve taking taxpayers’ money and directing it to them. For what? A sports team.

I have always said that a sports team progression is the gift that keeps on taking. First, you need the team. Then you need the arena. Then you need a winning team. Then you need a new arena with skyboxes. And finally, you need new players to keep winning.

But as the song goes (almost): “Many a tear has to fall, but it’s all in the Stadium Game.”

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April 22, 2011 - Posted by | Living in the modern age, Politics, The business of sports | , , , , ,

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