by Sam Hieb
Big Sunday N&R front-pager on NewBridge Bank Park 10 years after breaking ground:
When the Greensboro Grasshoppers played their first baseball game in the city’s downtown ballpark in 2005, the park’s boosters promised that it would revitalize downtown.
The Joseph M. Bryan Foundation built the stadium with $12 million of foundation money, a $10 million loan and Jim Melvin.
Melvin, the former mayor who never lost his dynamic energy, was a founding member of Action Greensboro, a group of six foundations that feared the city would decline further without something to boost jobs, income and pride for its citizens.
But the group stressed that the stadium was designed to be a symbolic victory for a city worn by losses.
In this case, proponents said, it’s not just about jobs.
A decade later there is finally development around the stadium —- the first phase of Greenway Park apartments, with phase two soon to follow; the Deep Roots Market kitty corner across Eugene Street; a proposed restaurant in the former Steele Vaughan building and —last but not least —- Roy Carroll’s proposed mixed-use development directly across the street from the stadium.
A lot plans, but by the same token I have to agree with local blogger David Hoggard:
….Hoggard was outspoken when Action Greensboro wanted to build the new ballpark because he never thought the city should abandon War Memorial.
Today, he likes the new one. He just doesn’t see a stadium as an engine of economic development outside the confines of its bleachers.
“It’s self-contained,” Hoggard said. “The entertainment is all there in that one place. It’s 9:30 at night and there’s all the beer you want and you go home.”
If the Hoppers aren’t in town, the block is deserted; all the action is on South Elm Street. More interesting, however, is today’s follow-up front pager, which focuses on the stadium itself. Hoppers general manager Don Moore explains the value of being a privately-owned venue:
But the value of private ownership goes beyond money, Moore said. He believes it has helped keep the stadium feeling new.
“If something breaks, or we have something that needs attention, we take care of it. Right away,” Moore said. “We don’t have to ask permission or go through a lot of red tape like a lot of (public) places do.
“It’s just like someone’s personal living situation. If they own their home, they’re a lot more apt to take care of it than if they rent someone else’s place. That’s true with stadiums, too. A lot of stadiums owned by somebody other than the team that’s there, quite frankly they don’t care as much. They’ll leave things up to the owner. They expect somebody else to pay for stuff.”
Private ownership means total control. It means the ballpark doesn’t become a political football or subject to government budget cuts in tough economic times.
No doubt downtown Gboro is transforming; the scope of that transformation will be interesting to witness.