DC Baseball turns into Ping Pong

| 1 Comment

Looks like there are a still a few things to iron out for the new DC baseball stardium: Councilmen Propose D.C. Baseball Plan Changes.

Yesterday's WaPo carried an interesting commentary on the issue from Henry Aaron (no, not that one). Here's an excerpt:

My enthusiasm dissolved, however -- replaced by concern for the District's financial recovery -- when the details of what the city had offered to lure a team became public. The proposed deal imposes huge costs on the District and gives virtually all of the financial gains to the team. The city will bear the burden for years to come, while enjoying little real financial benefit from baseball's presence here.

At heart, the issue is a question of how much the new team and stadium might benefit DC. Both sides of the issue brandish various studies and opinions to suggest they are right.

I recently moved to DC from Chicago, where we have (in case you weren't aware) two major league baseball teams. One, the Cubs, is on the north side of the city, and the other, the White Sox, is on the south side of the city. One, the Cubs, continues to do very well, while the other, the Sox, does not. It seems to me that these two stadiums encapsulate the visions proposed by the opposing views.

On the optimists side, the area around the new DC stadium would look like the area in which Wrigley field sits: vibrant, populated, (relatively) well taken care of, and -- best of all -- expensive. The whole area is surrounded by expensive condos, decent restaurants, clubs, bars, and more.

On the other hand, the neighborhood surrounding Comiskey (and I still think of it as Comiskey) is notoriously unappealing. Despite the building of the new stadium several years ago, little has changed in the area: it's still dirty, unpopulated, and downright dangerous at certain times of the day.

Here's my view on the discrepancy: parking.

For Wrigley, the act of getting to or around the stadium on game day should never be attempted via car. There is easy public transit access from two different lines, walking from numerous neighborhoods is pleasent in decent weather, and there are rows and rows and rows of places to lock up a bike. The only real car traffic that does regularly move are cabs. And they can just keep moving. Sure, there are places to park for those coming in from out of town -- neighbors of Wrigley do a brisk business charging between 15 and 50 bucks for their parking spaces behind houses, in alleys, or in the parking lot of their small business, depending on the distance to the field. (And -- something that puts a smile on my face -- there is ample opportunity for price discrimination: "easy-out" parking is more expensive, but your car isn't blocked in Tetris-style behind 30 others so you can leave when you like.)

Comiskey, on the other hand, is surrounded by parking facilities owned, operated, and within close distance of the stadium. You rarely have to set foot anywhere else than the Sox facility to go see a game.

The effect is clear. People on their way to Wrigley field stop for souveniers, buy their peanuts, meet friends at their apartments, or gather in the bars for pre- and post-game drinks. The foot traffic that occurs because no one can park nearby turns a few square blocks into a sea of humanity that is hunrgy, thirsty, and looking to be consoled or to celebrate. The end of a Sox game is an orderly affair with people travelling only a short distance to their cars to make the drive home.

A large part of the argument about the benefits of a stadium involve the potential benefits to local business. I'd say that would only be the case if the people attending the game had cause to cross paths with those businesses. If the stadium goes up in Anacostia with a sophisticated complex for parking, I'd be willing to bet that there will be little to any benefit in Anacostia itself. And unfortunately for those small businessmen of Anacostia, it's highly unlikely that the hefty price tag on the stadium doesn't included sufficient parking only feet away from the field.

1 Comment


Powered by Movable Type 5.02

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by published on November 8, 2004 11:44 AM.

Neuroeconomics was the previous entry in this blog.

India Calling is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.