We Want a Ballpark

Sometime next week a couple of extremely colorful City of Phoenix staff members will haul a big pile of sketches, overhead-projector transparencies and documents into the council chambers at City Hall. Then the councilmembers will assess their options. Then they will vote, and the Valley's baseball future will be decided.

If the council votes one way, Phoenix taxpayers will go to the polls on October 3 and approve the construction of a downtown ballpark. Then the big leagues will expand to Phoenix and we'll all be going to games and having fun, just like they do in real cities.

If the council votes another way, several hundred thousand Bill Bidwill-loathing people will go to the polls and kill any and all hope for A) a downtown stadium and B) major league baseball in Phoenix, probably.

It's that simple, dudes. Since before any currently living person was born, the city has been trying to get some kind of stadium downtown. When the stadium hunt started, we needed both pro football and pro baseball teams, and we also thought we needed a domed stadium of some kind in which these teams could play.

Well, last year we got pro football, or at least the rough approximation provided by Bill Bidwill's Phoenix Cardinals out at Sun Devil Stadium. As any doof could tell you, however, we are still without a big-league baseball team.

To get one of those, we need a ballpark, not a dome. Building domes seems to have gone out of fashion recently, further proof that God may indeed exist and, if so, He may be a baseball fan. And we have every reason to believe that if the city council tries at this late date to put a dome over any stadium, that God will come down from his Skybox and whip butt.

On October 3 Phoenix taxpayers will have a chance to belly up to the ballot box and resolve the stadium problem one way or the other. The city council's job next week is to pick a stadium plan to present to the voters. The council's options (Facts ahead! Watch it!) are: * A football-baseball combination stadium. The city has been negotiating with a Chicago company called VMS Realty Associates to help develop this multisport stadium, although the negotiations may not be wrapped up in time for the city to even consider this option, which it shouldn't anyway. * Or a smaller stadium built by the city for baseball--a ballpark, in plain English.

Option One's strong point is that a football-baseball setup may be more profitable to the city over the long haul because of increased revenue generated by saps willing to pay out the wazoo for their football premium seats and skyboxes. But so what. If you're going to build a stadium of any kind, it's going to cost millions of bucks. To the public, the difference between these two stadium options is the difference between $75 million and $100 million. I have no idea how much money that is. The property tax that will pay for either stadium will cost me $8 a year. Peanuts.

Option Two's strong point is that it's the only plan that has a prayer of passing on October 3. The football-baseball combo is dead for two reasons. One, a fine football stadium (built at taxpayer expense) already exists--and the Cardinals are playing in it. Two, Bill Bidwill.

See, if a stadium is built downtown, the Cardinals would move from Tempe to play in it. And what makes that last part so bad? Well, what makes it so bad is that everybody in the world except Arizona Republic sports columnist Bob Hurt hates Bill Bidwill. Nobody will vote for a stadium deal, no matter how beneficial to the city it may ultimately be, if it also might benefit Bidwill in any remote way. Like I say, it's moot, a loser, get it out of my sight. Option Two, on the other hand, has a lot going for it. And this is where you, Jack and Jill Taxpayer, come in. If city negotiators can somehow strike a tentative deal with VMS in the next few days, the city council will be tempted to put that Option One sucker on the ballot. Which would mean, what? It would mean a loser in October. No downtown stadium. No baseball. So it is important in the next few days for you as baseball fans (and--need I say it?--as Americans) to communicate with your representative on the city council your preference for an open-air, baseball-only stadium. This may be our last chance.

I've devised a little relaxation exercise to help put you in the mood for just such a phone call. This exercise is based on scientific meditation techniques I learned while watching the Weather Channel.

First, find a comfortable chair, preferably a deep recliner near a telephone. Now, dim the lights in the room. Close your eyes, lean back and picture yourself in a grandstand seat along the first-base line at the new ballpark.

See the field, a green carpet of beautiful natural grass. Hear the catcher's mitt pop with the pitch. Taste the salt from the peanuts, the cheese-like sauce from the nachos, the tingle of cold beer across your lips.

Open your eyes. Reach for the phone. Dial the city council switchboard at 262-7029. Speak now, baseball fans, or forever wish you lived somewhere else.

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Cap'n Dave