GROW UP, PHOENIX

There has already been too much written and said about constructing a stadium for major-league baseball here in Phoenix.

I suggest we stop the debate. For once, let's get together and decide it is our civic duty to get this stadium built. I promise you, we will immediately feel better about ourselves.

The construction of a stadium will be an enormous booster shot for the self-esteem of Arizona and the city of Phoenix.

Haven't you ever noticed that a happy, prosperous city is one in which concrete is continually being poured? Did you ever visit New York or Chicago and not hear the sounds of jackhammers in the downtown area?

Big cities do big things. Little cities debate about them and delay. Let's be a big city. If we try it, we'll find that it's actually quite easy.

It's fashionable to paint Jerry Colangelo as the heavy in this campaign to get the stadium done. One courageous columnist even criticized Colangelo the other day because he has the power, all by himself, to turn on the music inside America West Arena.

My God, what an abuse of power! My only concern is that I suspect Colangelo's taste in music. He seems to think that Sinatra can still sing.

I'm amazed Colangelo accepted the job of ramrodding this stadium thing through. He doesn't need the grief. I suspect it's turning into something he'd just as soon drop.

Colangelo is in this thing precisely because he absolutely is the only one around with the clout to get it put together.

The Pulliams and the Arizona Republic and the Phoenix Gazette are backing his play for two reasons, and they both have to do with self-interest. Don't knock it. Those are the best possible reasons, because they assure steadfastness.

The Republic will be overjoyed to unload that downtown warehouse it no longer needs. It also realizes that a major-league baseball team in downtown Phoenix, added to the Suns in NBA basketball, is an incredible combination.

Finally, there will be a reason for tourists to leave Scottsdale.
The talk-show hosts keep talking about "fat cats." For once, let's quit worrying about who is going to make a profit selling their land. That is, after all, an old Arizona pastime. That doesn't make this Watergate. What we have here is the construction of something that will be good for us all, even those of us who are not baseball fans.

The plan is to build an air-conditioned stadium with a retractable roof and natural grass.

This is not an incinerator or a nuclear-energy plant. There is nothing here that will endanger the lives of horses, dogs or children. In fact, the children will benefit from it greatly.

I grew up in New York City, where I could ride the subway less than 20 minutes to go to games at both Yankee Stadium and the old Polo Grounds. I have never forgotten those trips.

As a newspaperman in Chicago, I watched Mayor Richard J. Daley closely for a long time. I was amazed and often repulsed by his highhanded tactics. But Daley helped to keep Chicago a great city.

I also had the opportunity of sitting and listening hour after hour to a great baseball man named Bill Veeck. In his last years, Veeck talked often about the behind-the-scenes help he got from Daley.

The owners of the Chicago White Sox were planning on selling and letting the franchise move to Seattle. Veeck was trying to buy the Sox back and keep them in town.

People were saying Chicago wasn't big enough to support two baseball teams. Veeck knew the town was. Daley backed his play.

I still remember how Veeck's face would light up as he told the story. Bill was a man who was not afraid to tell a story more than once if it was a good one, and so I bet I heard this one more than a dozen times.

"Dick Daley was an early riser," Veeck would say. "Here it would be 8 in the morning, and he'd be on the phone to me already. 'Mr. So and So will be calling you today,' the mayor would say. 'He's got money to put in the deal.' The mayor was determined to keep the Sox in town. He was convinced it was important for the city. He didn't let anything get in his way."
This is a time for someone with power to exercise it. That is, at this moment, a description of Colangelo.

If this were Paris, I would fight a battle urging that the Republic and those other people like the Younts who own land in the area donate it for the creation of a magnificent park like the Bois de Boulogne or the Luxembourg gardens.

It would be a huge public area dotted with long, gravel walkways, several museums and possibly a cooking school that would attract students from all over the world.

Someone might even open a small liberal-arts college so that young students of modest means who are interested in the reading and writing of the English language could avoid the necessity of attending Arizona State.

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