Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

April 16, 2013

Column: Baseball park defeat was the right move

By MICKEY FURFARI
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

MORGANTOWN — This long-time Monongalia County resident applauds those members of the West Virginia State Legislature who opposed the sales tax TIF bill.

   It included plans to construct a new publicly owned baseball park for use by West Virginia University and other teams at a projected cost of $16.2 million.

   In my opinion, WVU does not need a new ballpark. Baseball has never paid its way in the 67 years I’ve covered that sport at the university. It never has been supported, drawing a crowd of perhaps 200-plus or 300-plus per game.

   Such averages for the past 10 years were recited herein last week. So was an average attendance of 288 for the Mountaineer’s first six home games of the 2013 season.

   My thinking—and that of numerous other people—is that upgrading at long-time existent Hawley Field would be millions less costly and certainly affordable.

   The playing surface reportedly is the best for baseball in Northern West Virginia. And the dugouts are nicely separated, with space to build alongside each modern-day locker rooms.

   What’s more, that ballpark is aptly placed in the WVU Coliseum complex and within easy reach by WVU students.

   With WVU now a new member of the sprawling Big 12 Conference, those students who pay soaring tuition fees no longer can afford going to far-away Texas, Kansas, Iowa, etc. to attend football or basketball games, much less baseball (and who really cares?).

   I’m also told by growing numbers that where the WVU powers-that-be wanted the ballpark to be built is the highest point of what’s called the University Town Centre shopping mall.

   It’s reportedly extensively windy and uncomfortably cool, if not cold, during the months baseball is played.

   I absolutely have not visited that site. Hopefully, some members of the state legislature did visit or will in that area.

   Sen. Bob Beech, a legislator from Monongalia County, reportedly called the lack of support of that bill “a shame.” So much so, he planned to request that Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin call a special session for reconsideration of that bill. Wouldn’t that merely add to the wasted money?

   While I know nothing about politics, I am a taxpayer who thinks that would be a waste of your money and mine.

   Surely, the West Virginia Legislature could find the 1,200 new jobs it hoped to get for the ballpark project in other ventures much more meaningful to the Mountain State than a new baseball park that’s not really needed.

   The new, larger exchange exits from I-79 understandably could alleviate congestion in that area. Whether another hotel or two is needed, who knows?

   But spending $16.2 million for a ballpark seems such a waste, as was paying a $20 million exit fee to withdraw from the Big East about a year ago.