Friday, January 30, 2004

City of HoustonUrbanism Watch
A couple of articles, from the W.Post and Blair Kamin in the Trib on the city of Houston as it prepares to host the Super Bowl. (Of the many fun facts about Super Bowl Sunday, I came across this one this morning: Domino's Pizza expects to deliver 1.2 million pizzas this Sunday, twice as many as any other Sunday.)

Here's Blair:

HOUSTON -- Twenty years ago, this was the city of the future. It had ribbons of freeways, not mass-transit rail lines. It had a series of skylines rather than a single downtown skyline. Instead of an open-air ballpark like Wrigley Field, it had the Astrodome, the enclosed, air-conditioned stadium that was dubbed, with characteristic Texas hype, "the eighth wonder of the world." The Houston that will host the Super Bowl on Sunday is a very different place. Or, more accurate, it is trying to be different. The nation's fourth largest city just opened a 7.5-mile light-rail vehicle line that runs from downtown to just past Reliant Stadium, where the Super Bowl will be held. Along the line is a three-block pedestrian mall where "jump jets" shoot water 40 feet into the air. The Astros, meanwhile, have abandoned the Astrodome for a retro stadium, Minute Maid Park, whose brick walls behind home plate mimic -- you guessed it -- Wrigley Field. Something is starting to change here: Since the oil boom went bust in the mid-1980s, city officials, real estate developers, urban planners and architects came to realize that the city of the future wasn't particularly livable or attractive, even though it was studded with trophy skyscrapers.

And, staying on the subject of sports and cities, the New Yorker on the latest stadium scheme in New York City:

New York is a big town, with a lot of teams, and we don’t have to look nearly so far back in time—or to such nostalgic standbys as the Brooklyn Dodgers—to come up with noteworthy stadium and arena unveilings for comparison. Remember Fred Wilpon, the Mets owner, posing for photographers in 1998 with his Ebbets Field-inspired mockup? At half a billion dollars (retractable roof included), that was a bargain compared with the latest estimates (just last month) for a Yankees home in Macombs Dam Park, in the Bronx: eight hundred million, with about half to come from the public coffers, and half from Mr. Steinbrenner. The West Side Jets stadium dream is more ambitious still, with a price tag above one and a half billion, all told. ... In the past few years, the Islanders, too, have announced plans for a new Coliseum, and the Knicks and the Rangers have continued agitating for a new Garden.... Only the Giants seem content to remain where they are. So if there is a stadium-seat manufacturer looking to expand his business, let him come here, where a quarter million new seat orders await processing. To be fair, unlike just about every town in the land, the New York area hasn’t seen a new big-league stadium or arena built since the Carter Administration, and that was in New Jersey, in the Meadowlands, from which the Nets are now bolting. But it’s hard to think of a city that has built seven.

Previous U.W.

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