In all honesty, when the idea of a baseball stadium was first introduced several years ago I was somewhat ambivalent to it. Now that I have taken the opportunity to fully examine it, I am a believer. This community would benefit significantly from the presence of a multi-purpose facility. Especially downtown. Especially Baseball.
I understand that several years ago the City of Parkersburg voted against a proposal for a convention center. While I was not a resident of the community at the time, I was surprised to hear several stories of how some public leaders spoke so strongly against it.
As a hotelier, I understand that many convention centers in the U.S. must be subsidized by tourism taxes, and, in order to make a large facility work, there must be a great deal of planning, both in financing and design.
But let me point out the fact that we are the largest city in West Virginia without a facility that can host a large event. This doesn't go unnoticed when we are in the running for major state-wide sporting events. Or when a major promoter is look to book an entertainment event.
We should understand that a proposed baseball stadium is not just about baseball. If you think a baseball stadium is a bad idea, do you also think Junior and Senior high school sports are too? What about Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Little League, Youth Soccer, 4-H, FFA, Special Olympics, music concerts, summer training camps, circuses, or tractor pulls? (I could go on but the News and Sentinel folks might need to add an extra page.)
Here's the deal. A major facility like the one being talked about by community leaders is a very, very good thing for our area. A facility that's used 250 times a year would be great for us. Pardon the pun, but it would be a "game-changer."
Separate from everything I've mentioned thus far is one more thing about a baseball stadium. Stu Williams, owner of the Washington Wildthings, recently came to our community and introduced the idea and opportunity of a National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) league team. Women's professional softball is very big in professional sports right now, and it appears to be getting bigger.
Can you imagine an area like ours, who has such a great legacy of girls' softball, both in caliber and history, being the home of a professional softball team? A team made up of the best college and Olympic softball players in the world. What a heritage we could create.
And heritage is exactly the main reason to have professional sports in your area. While the oil and gas industry may be our economic future, it is inadequate in defining our culture. So are the Duponts, the Borg Warners, the Vitrolites, the Corning Glasses, the American Viscoses, etc., etc. While all of these are, or were, important, we must understand that our jobs should never define us. Our passions should.
Baseball stadium aside, a facility where we can collectively celebrate our passion with our friends and family, is a good investment. It's an investment in our heritage, our culture, and our future.
Come see me. I'll be in the lounge.
Cecil Childress is General Manager of the Blennerhassett Hotel and Chairman of Downtown PKB.