I recently found out that a deadline is not a deadline is not a deadline. Definitely not like First Friday, which comes on every first Friday no matter if it is a holiday, a cold day or it is sweltering at 102 degrees. It is still First Friday. And that falls on a Friday and that is the first Friday of the month.
It seems like those kinds of absolute terms are not part of this baseball stadium scenario. I got in to this baseball stadium deal reluctantly, based on that I thought it was a West Chester deal. After all, the Mayor of West Chester was the chair and I kinda figured, it was their idea so let them do it. I am sure if Phoenixville had something going on West Chester would respect that too. It is called practicing "good form"... doing the right thing.
Then somehow the group said that it was a county project and that applications were wanted throughout the county. The Chester County Economic Development Council (CCEDC) was taking over the project and was setting the process up as competitive and open. Numerous people and institutions in the community expressed interest in the project including the school district, Doug Murray and Mike Handwerk.
So we put together an application along with a petition to make application by the deadline date. Brian Watson and I worked hard to put together a rough draft. Other people put final touches on the draft, correcting grammar, punctuation and my tendency to write too technically. Nan Odenthal did the final draft, which was accepted by all and submitted by the deadline.
Now, this deal is kind of a wild deal to me... look at it as we are applying to an ad hoc group of people that are going to look at sites in the county. We were not privy to the structure of the proposed stadium in terms of ownership, finance or functionality. We were applying to a process that I call a "pig in a poke" process. We tell them what we got and they really tell us little about what we are applying for.
I thought the best way to do this would be to have a countywide stadium authority, which would put the financing together, and run the stadium. If that was not the case and I had to provide a developer, I would like to know that right away. If I were competing against a site like Atwater, which has a developer and it developer driven, I would be at a strategic disadvantage to go into this process without a developer.
So I am not at all sure what we are doing with this project. We are waiting for them to evaluate it and I am not sure how they are making that determination. Everyone knows we have one of the hottest real estate markets in the county and investors are drooling over the fact that we may get a baseball stadium
When it comes to access we are pretty much second to none. We have Route 29, Route 113 and Route 23 all converging on Phoenixville and we are in the process of building a road right through the steel site. We have access up the wazoo (defined as: to an extreme degree or in great abundance) so that does not seem to be a problem. Infrastructure is here. We just put a sewer interceptor on the steel site so again the wazoo is overflowing with "up the." A million flushes would just keep those internal wheels spinning.
The commitment of the community is here. I cannot think of anything that has driven this community to togetherness more than this project. I would like a stadium because we could use it for a number of different uses. Concerts with a bigger name could be a regular occurrence here; high school and college sports could be an expected event as we expand the arts and entertainment economic development strategy.
We must also be aware that sometimes baseball teams are not the most reliable partners. People have told me that they are hard to deal with and will leave for a better deal in a heartbeat. That long-term deal will be a painful experience, I assure you. So this whole shooting match is not without risk and big risks too... with someone holding that poke.
So now I want to take us back to the theme of this column.
I get word that some of the sites expected to apply did not apply by the deadline. Many of those sites that would be compatible to a "Landscapes approach" (as in Chester County Landscapes Planning document) did not apply. Phoenixville is one of the only ones identified as an urban center that applied. If you want to follow Landscapes and "you want to walk it like you talk it" Phoenixville is your site.
Somehow the deadline went out the window and some of these sites were asked to reconsider and apply to the process. I oppose this kind of action and called the CCEDC and expressed my displeasure. "Yo man, once you set up a process ... stick to the process," I said on a message machine... Even if it is vague and full of unknowns, we need to have a fair process.
Like I said... I got into this reluctantly to begin with because I thought the site was already selected. Looks like we have the best site out of those that submitted. We have solid community backing... and we are looking for a fair shake not a backroom deal. So again I urge the site selection committee to do the right thing and not accept any additional applications and honor the deadline that was established. We have put time and effort into this process. Let the process play out. If we have the best offer then give it to us, if not give it to someone else... but at least do it fairly. I know for one that I will not be a happy camper if some late submission is given priority over our application... at that point I will have cause to question the entire process.
Barry Cassidy is the executive director of Main Street-Community Development Corp.