At the beginning of the summer, I picked up a game for the family to pass the time while we are lounging around the pool or hanging out at the beach. This slightly disturbing game is called “Would you rather?”
It’s a pretty simple premise — you are presented with two options of two usually pretty terrible things and you have to decide which one you “would rather” do.
Some of the questions include, would you rather… “Have mayonnaise tears or Kool-Aid sweat?” This one is a no-brainer, Kool-Aid Invisible Grape, which is clear and lots of AC!
Another one asks, “Would you rather have eyelashes that grow at a rate of one inch per minute or have hot fudge perpetually dripping from your nostrils?”
Like most women, I chose the eyelashes, as no one said you couldn’t trim them, although that would be quite a job at that growth rate. My kids both opted for hot fudge noses, thinking about their futures in the ice cream topping business. They were thinking they would just sit at Cammie’s Old Dutch all day, eat free ice cream, while they offered their special “services” to customers, but I am thinking a factory situation would be the smarter route for them to go. Perhaps we could partner with Blue Bell. Licked vanilla with boogery hot fudge sounds delicious! We are still negotiations on this one.
Some of the questions are a bit darker, “Would you rather slide down a banister of razor blades into a pile of Cajun spice or be buried up to your neck in sand and have your head used as a golf tee for a day?” My answer was, “Depends on who the golfer is….”
So, you get the idea. We have had a great time pondering life’s not-so-deep questions, but after hearing the latest news on different plans for the Civic Center, it did have me pondering another “would you rather?” question.
Would you rather replace the Civic Center with a development that includes apartments, a grocery store and can accommodate Mardi Gras balls or an entirely new entertainment district that would sort of have a space for our mystic revelry?
My answer right now is neither.
Like most people, I don’t see why we can’t find a solution that works for both. If they are going to tear it down (and that seems like a foregone conclusion at this point) and have someone build something brand new from the ground up, with some of it being funded by taxpayer money, I don’t see why there can’t be an absolute requirement for space that will accommodate Mardi Gras balls, in conjunction with the Convention Center and Fort Whiting (Gasp! It’s OK, don’t have a heart attack! Some of those balls at Fort Whiting are really fun! It’s OK to think outside of the dome!). It certainly won’t be exactly like the Civic Center, but maybe it will actually be better in some ways. Think positive!
With that said, I am having a hard time seeing how either of the current proposals would really work. The Stirling Properties proposal has a Mardi Gras space but also has five apartment buildings planned. We have so many apartments that have yet to be filled already in downtown, can we really fill another five? And a grocery store? Does that really work without the apartment buildings? And again, do we really need more apartments? It just doesn’t seem to fit.
The other proposal by Cordish sounds like Downtown Disney to me, and I don’t mean that as a compliment. Maybe I would if Disney World was also sitting downtown but it’s not. And never will be.
It comes with its own restaurant group with “themed eateries.” Maybe that would appeal to some of the Mobilians who are “too scared” to come downtown to eat at locally owned restaurants already, but at first glance it sounds kind of cheesy to me, for lack of a better word.
Our locally owned restaurants and businesses are what keep our downtown “funky” and they showcase what Mobile is really all about. I’m not saying there isn’t room for chains to open up downtown and fill empty buildings, but plopping down a whole strip of restaurants that could be opened up in any other city in America — in fact, they already are in Louisville, Atlanta and St. Louis, among others — I just don’t know.
These “Live!” locations by Cordish are generally anchored by baseball fields or casinos and rely heavily on tourists. There would be no such anchor here. And Mayor Stimpson has even said we would have to almost double our tourism numbers to accommodate a development like this.
So where are these new tourists going to come from exactly?
I love this city more than my luggage, but I also realize there aren’t a lot of people who list Mobile, Alabama, as one of their top travel destinations, and that is OK! There are plenty of places I love to visit but would never want to live. Conversely, there is no place I would rather live and raise my family than here, but I get there aren’t a ton of folks who want to visit here. That doesn’t make our city any less wonderful.
I’m not saying I don’t want tourists. If people want to come visit, I say lay out the biggest welcome mat ever, but COUNTING ON these tourism numbers for a city our size, is, well, as City Councilwoman Gina Gregory put it, a bit “ambitious.”
Plus, the Cordish plan for Mardi Gras would be to put the balls in a large outdoor space and use tents. Hmmmmm? I just don’t see how that dog would hunt.
I guess the problem here is that while both of these proposals include interesting concepts, neither seems to be just the right fit for this property or offer a viable solution for Mardi Gras. If we are going to do something bold, it needs to be something that makes sense for the one event that does actually bring tourists into town each year and also the downtown community as a whole. Let’s not get seduced by another grand idea that just doesn’t work because we don’t have the tourists to support it. We all know there are several of these boondoggles already sitting around this city.
I just don’t think we are there yet with either of these plans. In this case, I “would rather” they go back to the drawing board.
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