Friday, June 29, 2012

$4+ million for the arts, not for sports

Let's quickly forget about the meaningless distinction between someone that dances and receives academic credit and someone that swings a bat and does not.

Let's also forget that our schools maintain facilities for both artistic and athletic pursuits.

Starting from here then, how do you think the public would react if the city of Olympia announced it was spending $4.4 million to upgrade a field at Yauger Park to a 1,500 seat capacity soccer stadium? Or, baseball stadium, I suppose (even though we'd never get a real minor league team here).

Under certain circumstances, a 4,000 seat baseball stadium could be had for around $4.3 million.

You think the public reaction would be supportive? Actually, I think the public reaction to a larger (much larger) athletic facility would be overall negative. Possibly very negative.

As opposed to $4.4 million spent on reburbing an existing arts center? Granted, we already own the Washington Center for the Performing Arts.

But, I think this imaginary distinction might tell you something about the nature of Olympia. Ken Balsley calls this elitism.

But, I wouldn't go that far. We have plenty of people around here that spend a lot of their time dedicated to sports. There are plenty examples of this sort of dedication, families at Black Hills FC, hundreds of kids turning out for Olympia Bears football.

The question is, in Olympia given $4 million in public funds, the most likely end result is something for the arts, not sports. And why is that?

I've been pondering it for days now, and I can't really give you a good answer.


Thad Curtz said...


We have built a $24.3 million dollar stadium complex - the Regional Athletic Center with tax dollars (with plans to expand it still further...). It includes four baseball fields with synthetic turf and lighting, six soccer fields, two concession buildings, parking for 500 vehicles and "One minor league-rated baseball field with all-weather turf, lighting, and electronic score boards." It is true that the City of Olympia didn't help build this, but most of the funding came from the deal that Olympia and Tumwater made about what to do with the Public Facilities District money after the voters declined to finance a convention center in Olympia, and from the County (which includes Olympia, last time I looked).

(I'm going to refrain from commenting on Emmett's passing remark about the "meaningless distinction" between dance and baseball, beyond saying that when they start inventing different rules for every baseball game we might consider that further.)

Emmett said...

I'd actually argue that Olympia did help pay for the RAC since its likely that some of our money went over there and our reps voted for it. That said, I discounted the RAC because its a great place for participants, but less so for attendees. Compared to the number of fields, there are very few spots that someone could stop and watch a game.

There is capacity though at the RAC, especially on soccer field #2. That field is already lit, and I could easily see a 500-1000 seat stand being built on the hill next to the field.

In this same participant vs. spectator vein Matt Acker, a coach at St. Martins and one of the organizers of the Puget Sound Collegiate Baseball Leauge, commented over on facebook: "... what to do Oly? Build that field, build more performing art venues. Let Washington know Thurston County produces participants not spectators."