Ha! Now that I got your attention, I will confess that I am a big fan of building a baseball stadium behind the Prince Charles Hotel in downtown Fayetteville and attracting a minor league team we can call our own.
However, the devil is in the details, and no one has better articulated this than local business owner and community activist Michael Chandler. Read his editorial “Fool Me Twice? “on page 9 in this edition, and consider yourself forewarned of the complexities and hazards in negotiating a project of such magnitude.
And, if Chandler’s message is not enough, let me contribute this
addendum: It is the opinion of this writer that our community could afford to build all three of the quality-of-life amenities proposed to us during the past year: a baseball stadium; a downtown performing arts center; and a North Carolina Civil History Center - and do it without a major tax increase.
All we have to do is convince the Wizard of Oz to provide the elected leadership of Cumberland County and the City of Fayetteville with the heart that would enable them to empathize with our citizens, overcome traditional pettiness, see vision and embrace cooperation and fellowship for the common purpose of moving this community forward
They would also need a brain to fiscally and strategically come up with a financial plan that would make these countywide economic game changing prospects a reality.
And, finally they would need the courage to step up and step out with innovative ideas and strategies that serve all the residents of Cumberland County. Yes, political courage. Unfortunately, the majority of our elected officials are only expert, adept and enthusiastic about one thing: getting elected to an office and remaining there. Historically, some have served decades with little or no contributions to the betterment of our community.
Hey, don’t kill the messenger. I will close with this: I proudly spent six years on the Cumberland County Civic Center Board. I was on the controversial board that built the Crown Coliseum. Granted, the Crown remains an easy target when looking for something to complain about, and I will not dispute or defend the historic fiscal facts of its operation. However, one of the main reasons this complex did not and has not reached the expectations of Cumberland County leaders is because from the very beginning the City of Fayetteville, and consequently, its residents sat on the sidelines criticizing it, complaining about it, vilifying its mission, its management, its location and identifying it as the Bubba Dome.
There was never a buy in from the Fayetteville Community. Consequently, Cumberland County Commissioners distanced themselves from the albatross, allowing a decade of $3 million-a-year losses until a private firm (Spectra) was hired to come in to stop the bleeding and initiate the turnaround. That bold, but veiled act of courage and daring leadership was actually that of County Commissioners Jimmy Keefe and Ed Melvin, who at the time served as the Coliseum’s liaison. Neither of them sought credit or received credit for that bold and unprecedented initiative. They did the right thing for the right reasons, and that resulted in saving Cumberland County taxpayers millions of dollars.
I digress: Here’s my point about the prospect we have for getting a downtown baseball stadium and a Minor League baseball team for our community. This must be a project where ALL local entities come to the table to take ownership of it: The City of Fayetteville, County of Cumberland, Chamber of Commerce, economic development organizations, Fayetteville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and private investors. Celebrate it! Something this good must be good for everyone. Otherwise, without inclusion and cooperation, the stadium may still be built and the team may still come; however, like the Crown Coliseum, it will always exist with a mist of skepticism and negativism that will never disseminate. And, again, we will have paid for the privilege.
We have only one opportunity to get this right. So, let’s all play ball! We can do this!
Thank you for reading Up & Coming Weekly.