This Sunday, Saint Paul’s Pioneer Press published an article about how ballgames at the new CHS Field may effect downtown Saint Paul in regards to total parking capacity. Although the article quotes Mayor Chris Coleman saying, “a recent study shows there is as much as four times the amount of parking required to accommodate fans,” the article continues to elaborate on some downtown resident’s fears that a ball park may cause Lowertown to become over run with cars looking to park nearby the stadium during games. Summarized neatly, the article states that “If Saints fans drive to Lowertown alone, it will be a tight, and likely uncomfortable, fit.”
As an ex-resident artist of Lowertown who still works regularly in the neighborhood, I am familiar with the fears that many residents have about the new ball park. Although I do understand that change can be difficult, I must attest that Mayor Coleman is indeed correct to assert that there is more than ample parking to facilitate a cultural institution such as a ballpark. In the recent downtown Saint Paul parking study, data shows that there are more than 18,344 open parking spots in downtown during the time that ballgames will occur. Considering that CHS Field has an absolute maximum capacity of 9,000, it certainly seems to me that nearly 10,000 remaining open spaces does not constitute a “tight and likely uncomfortable fit.”
All that being said, I am not an engineer. I am, however, a life long baseball fan and I take pride in knowing the history of our country’s national past time. I was incredibly confused at how the Pioneer Press article didn’t seem to give any faith to the idea that baseball fans would use public transportation to go to ball games, calling the idea of riding a train to a ballgame “untested.”
Baseball is a game of historic records and always has been. The greatest appeal of both a ballgame and the history of baseball is that narratives of the sport lackadaisically write themselves into history with both poise and grace. In that way, the legends and legacies of baseball straddle the border of sport and folklore. Just consider the case of Morganna the kissing bandit, Babe Ruth’s called shot, or even the infamous Curse of the Billy Goat the Chicago Cubs live with to this day.
Yet the best example of baseball’s folk musicality is the tradition of singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” in the middle of the seventh inning. This particular tune was originally written in 1908 by Jack Norworth. At the time of the song’s inception, Jack was riding an elevated train in New York when he saw a sign advertising a baseball game. With a little help from his musician friend Albert Von Tilzer, an American musical classic sung at games to this day came about from the simple act of day dreaming on public transportation.
It is not coincidental then that most major league baseball teams strongly encourage baseball fans to use public transportation to come to ballgames. In fact, riding a train is so natural to the game of baseball that it is written into the cultural narrative of the game itself. Calling riding a train to a baseball game “untested” borders on absurdity.
But I do not write today in order to scold anyone or start any fights. I love baseball and I love my city. I think it will become readily apparent that CHS Field will be a fantastic asset to both our city and the vibrant culture our city provides. I do encourage the Saint Paul Saints to be more explicit to their fans that riding public transit is the best way to come to a game, as currently they list driving as the primary way to get to a game.
Yet I don’t encourage baseball fans to come to games via public transit just because it is the clear and obvious sensical thing to do. I encourage fans to use transit because driving to ballgames robs us of the ability to daydream on a summer day. We don’t know the opportunity cost of disallowing a muse to alight upon us because we are hurriedly looking for parking. I personally think it’s much more pleasant to sit and dream looking out the window in lazy anticipation of our national past time.
So please, come to a Saints game this summer. And please, ride public transit or ride your bike. Who knows, you might even see me rolling down the Bruce Vento Trail on my bike whistling silly songs to myself. In fact, you might even find yourself humming that age old song, “Take Me Out the Ballgame.”