Thursday, July 31, 2008

Protecting the trust of Frame Park

I promised Mayor Larry Nelson weeks ago that I would keep an open mind on the proposed baseball stadium in Frame Park. I waited until a formal presentation was made to the city, gathered all the facts available, and came to an inescapable conclusion: this is a really bad idea.

Nobody really has a satisfactory answer where the baseball fans are going to park their cars. After Tuesday night, there were more ideas on reducing parking than there were ideas to increase parking. The league’s proposal even included using the parking lot next to the stadium for events and free seating instead of cars.

One of the ideas is to have everyone park downtown and ride shuttles or trolleys, paid for by people and businesses unknown. Alderman Peggy Bull suggested the stadium have plenty of bicycle racks. Another idea is to have everyone walk over from the transit center, a 13-minute walk according to Community Development Director Steve Crandall. I’m surprised nobody suggested just swimming for it in the Fox River. Maybe the team can use that as a promotion for free tickets.

Even if everyone parked downtown and walked over to the stadium, all we would have succeeded in doing is filling the downtown parking with people who are someplace else while nobody can park downtown to actually patronize the businesses.

There’s a reason why restaurants in Milwaukee on Bluemound Ave have signs saying, "No Parking During The Game."

Nobody has a satisfactory answer on the impact on the nearby residents in Phoenix Heights including traffic, parking and noise. The comparisons were made to Fiesta Waukesha and Riverfest, ignoring that those are single events and not 34 nights taken away from the community in the summer. The only proposal that came out of concern for those residents? You guessed it, more parking restrictions.

But most importantly, left unanswered by the presentation Tuesday night was whether the loss of Frame Park for 34 nights and the permanent change in its character was worth whatever benefit the business of baseball can bring to Waukesha.

The answer, of course, is no. Frame Park is more than just a city park. It is a unique island within the city meant to be preserved as the inheritance for our children, not a future industrial park for commercial purposes. By approving this baseball proposal, Frame Park will be irrevocably changed whether the baseball franchise is successful or not. And not for the better.