Portland could use Seattles smarts
SEATTLE Ñ The traffic up here is brutal. It's overcast all the time. And cold, too. I don't drink coffee, so the fact that there's a coffee store on every corner doesn't appeal much to me.
But I openly confess my envy for the people living in the Emerald City.
It's a vibrant, exciting and sophisticated place to be. And while we slumber along in Portland, trying hard to convince ourselves that we know something no other city knows, we're just not being all we can be as a community.
I'm not going to talk about the wonderful wharf up here. Or the Space Needle. Or the monorail. Or Seattle Center. Or even the Experience Music Project. All of those things are attractions that are unrivaled in Portland Ñ unless you want to count the Eastbank Esplanade as a major tourist attraction.
What I'm going to talk about are two gathering places in the south downtown area Ñ Seahawks Stadium and Safeco Field.
In Oregon, we're trying to wake up our Legislature to what major league baseball can bring to a community. In so doing, sometimes I worry we've tried to bottom-line it a little too much. Yes, it really is a jobs bill. Yes, it will help the economy. Yes, it makes all the sense in the world to drag Portland, kicking and screaming, into the big leagues.
But while looking so hard at the monetary side of it, we forget that it's perfectly OK for a city to want to create wonderful places for families to get together. Places where a community can unite in good humor and kind spirit.
I really don't care if you're a baseball fan or not. You'd enjoy sitting in Safeco Field on a sunny evening. It's that good. It's that beautiful. And it's that worthy of our attention and our financial commitment.
You can portray a ballpark as a crib for millionaires. A rich man's playhouse. You can go down that road. But you'd be dead wrong.
A ballpark isn't for the owners of a team. It's not for the players. How many different owners have the Mariners had? How many different players have come through here wearing what were once hideous uniforms?
The Kingdome wasn't built for them. Safeco Field wasn't built for them. Seahawks Stadium wasn't built for them. Ballparks are built for families. For single people looking for a clean place to go for a wholesome date. They're built for you and me. We're the ones who get to relax with a cold drink and spend a few hours away from our real lives.
We're the ones who really derive the benefits from baseball played in a beautiful park like Safeco. Players? They're just working here. We watch them. We really don't even need to care much about them as long as they can get a hit with runners in scoring position.
Baseball is the last of the big league sports that's still affordable. If you wanted to watch Thursday night's game against the Portland Expos Ñ sorry, the Montreal Expos Ñ you could get a ticket for six bucks. That's right, $6. Sure, it's in the bleachers Ñ but you're going to tell me that's a bad seat in Safeco?
And while you're sitting there, watching a game unfold in front of you on a beautiful night, you're going to realize that this isn't as much about jobs or economics as it is about fun. Good, old-fashioned, clean, family fun.
And why should we let Seattle corner the market on that?