The NIMBYs

Scott Herhold of the Merc lives near one of the possible landing pads for the A’s in San Jose, and while he’s a fan of the prospect, his neighbors aren’t:

You see, I live in the Hanchett Park neighborhood of San Jose, about a mile as a City Hall falcon flies, from the potential site of an A’s ballpark next to the main Caltrain station.

And my neighborhood message group, usually sprinkled with tips on handymen or warnings of car break-ins, has buzzed about the potential downside of a stadium — traffic, lights, noise and the need for double-pane windows.

The whole debate is probably premature. The A’s lack permission from Major League Baseball to invade the assumed territory of the Giants. Last week, A’s managing partner Lew Wolff suggested everyone chill until he decides his next move.

Since it’s my neighborhood, I’m still intrigued by the passionate difference between the brave few who welcome a ballpark — I counted three on my message group — and the majority who think it’s the worst idea since Donald Rumsfeld.

One poster suggested the gulf was shaped by the like or dislike of baseball. I think it’s a more classic NIMBY battle: The neighbors might like baseball in the abstract. Just not here. Not now. Not with their money.

In truth, the NIMBY people have raised searching questions. How does a baseball stadium fit with plans for high-speed rail at the same site? What about the lights and noise? What about the inadequate parking or the choked freeways?

Leaving the question of finances aside — you all know where I stand on that — I am struck by the initial responses, even if they’re the mere anecdotal ramblings of a columnist’s neighbors. I’m curious: is there a Major League ballpark anywhere that brings with it the kinds of negatives described by Herhold’s neighbors?

I’m not asking this rhetorically. I really don’t know. Are there any ballparks, particularly new-builds, that truly antagonize their immediate neighbors? The only example I can think of at the moment is Wrigley Field, which seems to kick up problems in connection with night games and traffic issues and stuff. Of course Wrigley is a special case in that (a) it’s literally smack dab in the middle of a residential area; and (b) it probably does more to enhance the lives of its neighbors than detract. At any rate, unless you’re 95, it was there first, so complainers don’t get a lot of sympathy from me.

Anyone have any real life horror stories of living near the ballpark?

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Comments

  1. Andy L said...

    Plus you can make some money chargin people to park in your front yard, like they do by Lambeau Field.

  2. GBS said...

    Craig, you can’t see how a stadium would add traffic, lights and noise to the surrounding area?  I sometimes can hear the high school band practicing a mile from my house.  I’m sure 30,000 fans screaming because of a walk-off homer that close by would be enough to wake my kids.

  3. Craig Calcaterra said...

    GBS—of course I can, but that wasn’t the question. The question was whether any existing park is thought of as a problem the way a hypothetical park is often thought of as a problem.  My suspicion is that despite the noise and the crowds, the location of parks minimizes the practical effect on surrounding residents and businesses, at least to the point where it isn’t considered a Major Problem.

    But I don’t know, and that’s why I am genuinely asking if there is a park out there that is really hated by a significant portion of its neighbors.

  4. Howell Evans said...

    I have never lived near a major league ball park, but I did attend The University of Tennessee, or as I like to call it The Real UT, and live in the shadows of Neyland stadium (3 blocks or so). I can tell you first hand it was HORRIBLE. I like football just fine and all, but when around 95,000 people who don’t live near you just show up for a few days every weekend, it’s a hassle. I had various rules in place:

    1) Don’t move the car whatever you do.
    2) If you must move the car don’t come back until at least 10 PM.
    3) If you can’t abide by rule 1 or 2 then just pray for death.

    I also had the great joy of the UT marching band playing Rocky Top to a band member’s girlfriend who lived across the street from me most Saturdays.

    With that said, I loved living in that dump of an apartment.

  5. GBS said...

    Gotcha, Craig.  Like you I don’t have direct evidence, but I’d have to think there are people out there unhappy with their local stadium.  Of course, assuming can get a person in trouble…

  6. Rob said...

    It’s a hard question to answer in the terms that you’ve phrased it.  Fenway certainly fits the bill as much as Wrigley, but it’s been around for 97 years.  So even if you don’t discount the sympathy you feel for people who live near the park, the neighborhood tends to attract people who know what they’re in for and hence won’t complain.

    But obviously, if Fenway just appeared in your neighborhood one summer, you’d be a lot more likely to bitch about the traffic and the parking and the trash and the lights and the crowds.

    I mean, imagine how much fun it is to drive to a game and find on-street parking.  Imagine how much fun it would be to do that 81 times a year.  Imagine how pissed you’d be if you bought your house without that problem and now you want to move.

  7. GET OF MY LAWN, YOU CRAZY KIDS!!! said...

    HIT THE BALL IN MY YARD AND YOU’RE NOT GETTING IT BACK UNTIL I SPEAK TO YOUR PARENTS!!!

    Seriously, I think the problem isn’t the ballpark itself, it’s the things that spring up around ballparks, like bars, bars, and more bars, especially since all the new ballparks have planned entertainment districts around them.  Traffic is a big factor too, but mainly people are worried about drunken fans wandering around the neighborhood, three hours after the game is over.

  8. Craig Calcaterra said...

    Agreed to all of that.  I guess I’m just trying to figure out if, in any specific city, the “ballpark is making our lives miserable” complaint has reached beyond a handfull of annoyed neighbors and has achieved a level of disruption that attacts the interest of politicians, the media, etc.

    In my town, for example, everyone knows that it’s death to be near campus on a football Saturday, and anyone who lives near there (as I once did) knows the pitfalls.  It became a bigger problem, however—one that led to public meetings and news coverage—when knuckleheads started turning over cars and lighting fires a few years ago.

    I know that’s not a baseball thing (it’s pretty much an Ohio State thing only) but is there a place where things have progressed beyond mere annoyance and moved on to the public meetings and media coverage?

  9. jason said...

    I lived several blocks from the Houston Texans’ football stadium.  8 sundays a year I hated it.  Traffic was just awful for hours before the game and for hours afterwards.  The traffic jams seemed to spread for miles around the stadium.

    The occasional fireworks going off late at night to celebrate were even worse.

    You wont get 80,000 fans for a baseball game…but you will have to deal with 81 games instead of 8.

  10. Mark said...

    You have never been to a Fenway Residents Association meeting. They HATE any attempt by the Red Sox to do anything with the area. They also complain the loudest about the crowds, bars etc.

    It is hilarious. The property in the area is massively overvalued because of Fenway and its accompanying bars, crowds and shops all over the area. Yet the instant someone plunks down 1.5 mil for a very small condo, he gets annoyed by the very crowds and, noise and commotion that made his place attractive in the first place.

    I can only imagine how much yelling there would be if Fenway had a sizable parking lot rather than relying on public transportation or (heaven help us) people walking to the park.

  11. John said...

    considering these sweet economic times we live in, I would think dumping a stadium and all that comes with it is probably the only way to raise ones property value.  So if they don’t like the extra noise, move with a tidy profit and if its money then stay.  Seems relatively simple.

  12. Conor said...

    I think Rob said it best. I live about a mile and a half from Wrigley Field so I’m far enough out of the chaos. But that’s the thing – it’s a very crowded and lively neighborhood year round and the people who live there want that type of atmosphere. I like to have it close enough to visit when I’m in the mood, but far enough away that I can park on the street in front of my house and go to sleep at 10 pm if I want, undisturbed on my quiet little block.

    Now I don’t know the San Jose area, but I would think if they are going to construct a brand new stadium, it would have to be far enough away from heavy residential areas so that the construction noise won’t be unbearable. But if they’re thinking of just dropping it into the middle of a residential area, well that’s just plain stupid.

  13. Chris H. said...

    I doubt anyone would just drop a stadium into a residential area, a la Wrigley.  Better to put it somewhere where you can have a big parking infrastructure, because parking = $$$.

  14. Seattle Zen said...

    I went to law school six blocks from Camden Yards and though I never lived close enough to be affected, a pair of friends lived REALLY close. I remember times sitting in their house and hearing a roar, which would get us to turn on the TV to see what happened. And that was with the windows closed.

    The neighborhood had much bigger problems with the ghetto that existed just to the west. However, I think there were reasons to complain when the used the stadium to film Major League II during an off season. They used the PA system loudly and filmed at all hours of the night. Yes, I mean filming 2am to 6am.

    I also remember the short lived Riverside (CA) Red Wave whose beautiful ballpark was also used to the UC Riverside team and located next to the Married Student housing. They raised such a stink that the city did not grant them a beer license, making them one of the only teams not allowed to sell that most profitable of beverages. They moved shortly thereafter.

  15. Jeremy said...

    My (rail) commute takes me past AT&T;Park, so I absolutely see an effect of the ballpark. If the Giants are playing a night game at home, I know that I’m going to walk from my office in the financial district to the Caltrain station near the park, as the subway will be slammed and the buses motionless on the same streets as everyone else. I don’t consider this a problem at all, and it tickles me that I can walk faster than the vehicle traffic. Furthermore, the ballpark is the centerpiece of a truly revitalized South Beach neighborhood, and integrates much better with the community than Candlestick ever did.

  16. Eric said...

    Dodger Stadium has five gates through which traffic can enter the parking lot, but for over a decade only four of them have been in use.  The Scott Ave gate, which allows traffic to enter from a residential area in LA’s Echo Park neighborhood, was closed by the team after getting pressure from the local residents as well as a member of the City Council.

    We’ve all heard the tales of just how bad traffic can be getting in and out of Dodger Stadium, and with that in mind you get a sense of just how much complaining must have been going on to achieve this result.

    If you do a google search for Dodger Stadium Scott Ave gate, you’ll see that this issue has generated exactly the type of interest (media, politicians, etc) that Craig inquired about.

  17. YX said...

    Mark said…

    It is hilarious. The property in the area is massively overvalued because of Fenway and its accompanying bars, crowds and shops all over the area. Yet the instant someone plunks down 1.5 mil for a very small condo, he gets annoyed by the very crowds and, noise and commotion that made his place attractive in the first place.

    ———————————————————-

    While I agree with the general statement, the area is not overvalued by Fenway. The area is walking distance from Boston University, Northeastern, MIT, Harvard Medical and part of Boston College. It is within 10 minutes of downtown Boston, and closer to Copley business. In additional, neighboring Brookline is one of the most expensive neighborhood in the country even before Fenway’s existence. I doubt the value of the area got much of a boost from Fenway and from what I know people move there despite high price and having to put up with everything associated with Fenway, mainly due to the area’s great public school system (Theo is a graduate of Brookline High School, among others)

  18. vendor71 said...

    Another thing to consider about traffic in the neighborhood is that a ballpark is not a 9-5 operation.  There will be ballpark traffic in the area all day and most of the night, even when the team is on the road.  It takes a lot of deliveries to keep a ballpark in beer, hot dogs and foam fingers.  If you saw how much beer is delivered to some of the parks you’d be amazed. 

    Also, not only are there still fans wandering around at midnight, even on a Monday, you also have employees, sometimes a thousand or more on game days, coming and going from work throughout the day.  If you live a block or two away, it can’t help but be annoying. 

    But, the alternative for the teams is even worse.

    Criag, this is going to be a little long, so if you feel the need to edit it, no worries and go ahead.

    If you move the parks out to the far suburbs, a la football,  You run the risk of killing off your attendance.  This, maybe more than anything else, is the problem in Florida, and to a great extent in KC, Oakland’s current park and probably a few other places I haven’t been to.

    Whenever the ballpark isn’t in either the downtown area, or at least a heavily urbanized area with mass transit access, the team inhabiting that park always struggles to draw fans.  Baseball is different than football in that you play almost every day during the summer, as opposed to 2 exhibition games, 8 regular season games and 1 or 2 playoff games if the team is a winner.  Football Saturdays and Sundays, because of their relative scarcity are an “event”, a day-long affair.

    Baseball still operates on the “walk-up” system of attendance, people going to the park and buying tickets at the box office on game day, sometimes even after the game has started. 

    The whole system is relying on the two guys we all know sitting on a downtown bar stool during happy hour on a Tuesday night to decide to walk over to the park and take in a few innings.  It’s always been that way and it always will be that way. 

    Teams rely on anywhere from 1,000 to 3,000 people deciding to take in a game at the last minute.  You average a couple thousand or more walk-ups a night and next thing you know, you have an extra 200,000+ tickets sold at the end of the season.  Multiply that by lets say 10 bucks a ticket, 4 beers at 6.50 a pop, hot dogs at 4 bucks, split a bag of peanuts, and maybe stop off at the team store to buy a new ballcap for junior at home, and next thing you know, the 2,000 “Bob and Joes” that decided to go see five innings just made the team enough money to get a FA the next season that puts the team over the top and into the playoffs. 

    I know, it sounds simplistic, but when you think about it, it’s essentially true.  Besides taking a profit margin, the teams use the money to improve the franchise, and the main part of that is getting better players. 

    When you move 20 miles out of downtown Bob and Joe aren’t likely to stop in 4-5 times a season.  Which means you just killed off your attendance, and by extension your franchise.

    For baseball, the only way to survive is to be in the city, around a lot of people, people who will come to the park on a Tuesday night in August when the team is 12 games out, just because it’s there for them, it’s their team, and it’s something to do.  It’s a pastime, not a game.

    Sorry about all that, but when you look at my screen name you’ll understand that this is something I think about a lot. I HATE ballparks that are out in the middle of nowhere.  It’s not normal and it doesn’t work.

  19. InnocentBystander said...

    The Trenton Thunder (AA – Eastern League) has community complaints. Though the franchise has been very successful, they are mostly drawing fans from outside of Trenton (different demographics in the city). It is not easily accessible by public transportation so everyone drives in. This has caused major road problems. In fact they have moved roads and constructed new roads to try to deal with the problems. One of the road projects tried to take over a row of run down but occupied dwellings through eminent domain. It failed, and they eventually had to do the road as a tunnel underneath. The neighborhood wasn’t happy about the traffic, the attempted take over, or the tunnel.

    All these drivers also cause a lot of overflow parking problems on the street. Also, I have heard that every fireworks night comes with complaints and sometimes property damage lawsuits (probably frivolous, but if you’re upset you sometimes fight back regardless).

    The neighborhood has issues, but I know the city leaders take pride in the team.

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