By Mike Fossano
In what has become an annual event since 1994, my dad and I take a few days off during the summer to embark on an expedition to visit and discover a different baseball stadium, or stadiums each year. To this point, we’ve been to 24 stadiums (Although the MLB has 30 teams we’ve experienced a point in time when several stadiums have met the wrecking ball and a new wave of ballparks have taken their place) —some more memorable than others. These trips have given me the opportunity to not only see the game from different perspectives, but also to take in the pulse of the cities and regions throughout the country, that I may not have otherwise have visited, and really embrace it.
We had a couple days to stretch out during our trip to Kansas City last month to see the Royals, which was nice because outside of great barbecue (yessir!), jazz and blues music, I didn’t really know what to expect.
Even though geographically and economically speaking the city is more in line with the breadbasket of the United States, Kansas Citians (for the most part) identify with the Midwest lifestyle. While not as large as Detroit (in terms of both area and population), Kansas City suffered through similar urban sprawl problems during the suburban boom of the 1960s. Thanks to the aggressive urban planning reform and an effective new mass transit system, much of the sprawl has been recoiled toward the city’s core.
Sitting atop the rooftop at Kelly’s Westport Inn during our final night in Kansas City (home to several great local brews, most notably Boulevard Brewing Co.), I couldn’t help but draw a handful of “Man, we could really use this in Detroit.” moments. There are noticeable parallels between the districts within Kansas City and the cities that comprise Metro Detroit. The Westport neighborhood mirrors our Ferndale; an area of hip bars and restaurants brimming with college-age patrons. Country Club Plaza is like a Partridge Creek on steroids, River Market is akin to our Eastern Market, the upscale Briarcliff to Birmingham and the mixed-use redevelopment jewel Power & Light District to Royal Oak.
Our buddy Jim, a Portland, Ore. resident and the final piece of our stadium traveling team, turned me onto the urban growth boundary concept, which is mandated in a number of cities around the United States. The urban growth boundaries limits access to utilities such as sewage, water and telecommunications, as well as coverage by fire, police and schools. Downtowns have been redeveloped, mid- and high-rise developments have spiked and housing and business density has increased, all of which can arguably be linked to a result of urban growth boundaries.
It would be too dramatic and near impossible to implement such a boundary in Detroit—that ship sailed 30-40 years ago. It’s natural to wonder what things would be like today had that actually happened, but instead we need to focus on continuing to breathe new life into different pockets of the city through incentives and an effective, economical and safe mass transportation system.