Thursday, October 13, 2005

Corrupt Arena

This is a commentary I just submitted to WFPL.

I recently heard a news story in which Kentucky's Lt. Governor said that the new downtown arena would be an architectural marvel as important to Louisville as the Arch is to St. Louis.

Wow, if I wasn't dreaming, I'd think these were the same words we heard leading up to the fabulous Louisville Falls Fountain, that supercharged water cannon in the Ohio River that the Bingham family "gifted" us with. It was supposed to produce a grand fleur de lis (Latin for "lots of water") that could be seen as you drove through Louisville. Instead, it looked like a junked battleship that had sprung a huge leak.

We are not talking about Wrigley Field, Camden Yards, or even Riverfront Stadium here. We're talking about a college arena, one that's not even for the most popular team in the state. No matter how architecturally marvelous the building is, unless it's in the shape of a naked lady, or is surrounded by fountains of beer, tourists aren't going to flock here just to see it.

What makes the arena plan all the more troubling is the planned location, sandwiched between an ugly bridge and a gauche hotel, and close to almost no destination your average sports fan or concert goer will want to visit. Okay, maybe a fan will want to take in Waterfront park on a freezing January day, but that's about it. If I was a cynical man, I might guess that the consideration of this site had more to do with the greasing of palms by owners of the surrounding property than long term economic planning.

Don't get me wrong, I'd love to think that one day I could see U2 without a two day drive or be able watch a U of L game in a seat wide enough to accommodate both of my buttocks. But I think that there are wiser ways of bringing tourism and attention to Louisville. Perhaps an arch shaped tunnel under the city. We could say it's what they carved St. Louis' arch from.

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