Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Feb. 25: Stronger Advocates Needed For Little Havana Ballpark

By Sylvia Gurinsky

To hear some of the crying over the plan for a baseball stadium on the old Orange Bowl site, one would think they'd torn down a hospital or a school to plan for the new facility.

Not quite.

It's true the plan needs financial tweaking, and better PR people than Jeffrey Loria and David Samson. But to suggest it's a bad place for a ballpark is absurd.

What has the site been used for since the 1930s, after all?

A new ballpark would sustain that reputation as a sporting community, and might give a shot in the arm to efforts to revitalize Little Havana, a great neighborhood (Full disclosure: I grew up there.) that has fallen on hard times.

I remember hearing cheers from the OB during the 1979 Super Bowl between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Dallas Cowboys. I remember all those Saturdays and Sundays when local residents would rake in the bucks from people who parked in their yards. What's all that about a new ballpark not being good for the local economy?

I remember events other than Miami Dolphins and Miami Hurricanes football games - high school tournaments. Soccer matches. Concerts. What's all this squawking about a new ballpark not being a good place for concerts? Remember, the Marlins will only occupy the place between 85 - 100 days a year.

I remember the OB playground, where kids could play even when there was nothing going on inside the stadium. That could be done again.

I remember the OB being used as a voting precinct (So does my mother, who lost an umbrella while she was doing her civic duty.).

If a ballpark isn't built there, what would be? Another strip shopping mall that would be half-vacant? Or heaven forbid, another condominium most of the neighborhood couldn't afford anyway?

Seems like the most practical thing to build there is the one that's already in the plans - a baseball stadium. Just get it done, Miami and Miami-Dade.

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