NEW YORK – We need to end this crap right now. Does everything have to be torn down, rebuilt, and then torn down again. So we are reading an AP story about Carlos Zambrano of the Cubs. It reads:
Standing in the plush visitors’ clubhouse of Yankee Stadium, Carlos Zambrano made a plea for Chicago to replace Wrigley Field.
“You come into a ballpark like this and you see great things,” the Cubs ace told The Associated Press on Saturday before his team’s 10-1 exhibition loss at the sparkling ballpark in the Bronx.
“You wish that Chicago’d build a new stadium for the Cubs,” he said.
So it’s nice that broke cities all over the country plunk down for expensive stadiums, 99 percent on the taxpayer dole, and they are usually to replace some wacky stadium built in the 1970s or so.
But this one is more than amazing, because everyone in the world, apparently except for Zambrano, likes Wrigley Field. What made him say it? Does he think that he will play better with an new stadium? Is it the martini bars and the New York Sex and the City chicks with fake boobs that impressed him while he was in the Big Apple? How do you go from playing Wrigley Field to saying that? Or did he just get caught off guard?
We hope it is the latter. And he has apparently backtracked on it today as it caused an uproar.
We are not worried about the fate of Wrigley Field. Chicago will see to that. The statement will be so outrageous that it will get to nowhere, though we are certain there are many people who agree with him.
Zambrano actually has a quite typical disease. The Depression generation had a word for it. Waste. Just the idea of replacing Wrigley is wasteful. The idea needs to die because it is wasteful. You can never argue that something like Wrigley is better to a person who wants something new. You have to call the disease by the name.
As a society, it was enough that we had to have things that became obsolete, and we threw them away. But now, we have things that are perfectly good, and we throw them away, too. Buildings are disposable. Everything we use seems to be made in China.
The Wrigley idea is the same thing notion that let Macy’s destroy Marshall Field’s. It’s what allowed the demolition of Pennsylvania Station. It’s what allows the once grant liner S.S. United States to rot in Philadelphia. It’s the most backwards thinking possible, this refusal to deal with what’s good in the past, and recognize it. Because when you can’t figure out what’s right about the past, you have to keep playing the past, over and over again. If you can’t recognize that Wrigley Field is perfection, then the replacement will, no matter how good it is, become outmoded too. And you are back at it again.
Here is the problem. As a society, we have a limited amount of time and capital. We can do a number of things with that capital. We can continually tear down the same things, and replace them, or we can leave things that are just fine, and find new things to build.
Certainly, there can be arguments made for replacing many buildings, but at a certain point, if all we do is spend millions of our civic capital on schemes like flashy ball parks, we don’t have much energy for too much else new. My former city of Richmond, Virginia is in a suicidal scheme to build a stadium redevelopment in the middle of a flood plain, with city-sponsored bonds, all to build one of these stadiums. The old one was all new and flashy in the 1980s, and now the same folk who wanted a new one want yet another.
Just a few blocks from my house in Sarasota, Florida, the Sarasota School Board is about to tear down the iconic Riverview High School. Mind you, they are building a right nice new school next door, and the old one, designed by architect Paul Rudolph, is ailing. But the old building is sturdy, handsome and well designed, and it would make a fine arts studio, gallery or even storage unit for the school board. But no, the County of Sarasota has to rip it down. They come up with all sorts of reasons, but really it comes down to not being able to figure out what is good in the past.
What a waste.