I think the movie “Field of Dreams” Is schlocky tripe. I know most of you disagree with me on that. I don’t care. But its worst transgression may not be against grownup storytelling, but in giving city planners and stadium-backers that stupid “if you build it, they will come” catchphrase. I bet there hasn’t been a stadium campaign which hasn’t had that bit of faux wisdom behind it since the movie came out.
However, as a recent compare and contrast between Coors Field — which truly helped revitalize its surrounding area — and Chase Field — which didn’t do a hell of a lot for downtown Phoenix — shows, that wisdom is exactly wrong. You need to build it where people already are:
Metropolitan Phoenix is a widespread area without a distinctive downtown core. Its satellite cities of Glendale, Tempe, and Scottsdale all have significant attractions and downtowns of their own that create what the researchers call a “centrifugal effect” on potential visitors to downtown Phoenix. By some estimates, Phoenix has the least developed downtown core in the country.
Denver, on the other hand, has a historic core that dates back to the city’s founding in 1858. In addition, the city itself is far less expansive: encompassing only about 150 squares miles, to more than 9,000 for metropolitan Phoenix. The result of this urban form, for Denver residents, is a considerably more convenient proximity to the stadium.
All of which led to a ballpark in Phoenix that does nothing for its surrounding area and one in Denver that does.
Hit it where they ain’t. Build it where they are. It’s a pretty simple formula, actually. Amazing that people who are supposed to be experts in this kind of thing forget that sometimes.