Downtown Fayetteville business owners have high hopes for the impact of professional baseball on local commerce. Those Up & Coming Weekly have spoken with seem to agree Segra Stadium is a good thing for business. That, of course, was the hope of Fayetteville City Council when it decided to put together a $40 million business plan to build the ballpark and entertainment venue.
“In many ways, the stadium is delivering the audience, but it’s up to the business owners to entice attendees to come in the door,” said former Fayetteville Mayor Tony Chavonne. He knows the downtown market as well as anyone. Chavonne lives on Person Street in a house that would be thought of anywhere else as a twostoryrow house.
“Early business reports are somewhat mixed as we all try to figure it out,” Chavonne added. “There’s a lot of continued excitement right now with the new stadium. We expect that to die down some as people get into more of a routine.”
Merchants tend to be optimistic because of the new ballpark and the thousands of downtown visitors it has drawn. “We love the stadium and hope with time that more ballpark fans become downtown customers,” said merchant Molly Arnold. She and her husband have owned two downtown businesses for many years, including Rude Awakening Coffee House at 227 Hay St.
However, dozens of merchants showed up at City Hall earlier this month to complain that city government had made hasty decisions, which city manager Doug Hewett acknowledged need work. “We hope to come back with a larger and more comprehensive parking management program late in 2019 early in 2020,” he said at that meeting.
That’s months away, and Arnold suspects delays will be a problem. “We are hoping that City Council recognizes the need to also stop charging in (parking) lots, at the least,” she said.
Chavonne agreed, saying, “Many are avoiding the city paid parking lots and find abundant free parking in other parts of the city.”
Without saying so directly, Arnold suggested that merchants may have the answers. She said newcomers who come downtown for ballgames wonder about the police presence. “We hear that the regular blocking of Hay Street and the flashing blue lights is off-putting to people,” she said.
The city blocks off Hay Street between Ray Avenue and Pittman Street for pedestrians and stations police cars at each end. “I am still amazed with folks’ concerns on security,” Chavonne noted, recalling his eight years as mayor.
“We are encouraged” about the future, said Laura Laycock, store manager of Center City Gallery & Books at 112 Hay St. She said she has seen an increase in pedestrian traffic in recent weeks. The store closes at 6 p.m. on weekdays, but weekend afternoon games seem to generate traffic. Asked if owners Diane and Hank Parfitt have considered staying open later, Laycock said, “We’ve talked about it.”