Thursday, August 5, 2010

If you build it, why would they come?

One of the multitude of "alternative" newspapers we have in our fair capital city has a story in this week that would be more amusing if it were not so sad, in the sense that "sad" is what we have come to expect from our governmental bodies and their surrogates.

The former City Center Mall has been demolished after a short life span, and in its place will arise, if such a thing can be said to "arise", a park.

This park is quite close to the center of downtown, and is the result of a misplaced vision of tax dollars and tax abatements being thrown at the novel concept of "if you build it, they will come". Indeed, they did come, for a few years, anyway, until the rise of suburban super malls with ample free parking, more and better shops, no security issues (read: no gangs roaming the mall) a few years later doomed the City Center to a slow, agonizing death.

The current county commissioners have pledged $3 million toward the creation of the park, and they were mightily miffed when one of their partners in the deal sprang the idea of a carousel in the park upon them, seemingly from out of the blue. They harrumphed that tax dollars should be spent toward more important things like "getting the people back to work". How a park will accomplish this, they do not explain.

"Hold on a minute there, Commish!" cried the executive director of the special improvements district that was created to help bring the park project to fruition. "We've always wanted a carousel", he said. "Various plans have envisioned a carousel for more than 10 years". (Hmm...I am a lifelong resident of this area, and this is the first I have heard of it.)

Apparently it has just been a matter of executing the plan properly, I believe they said.

A company in nearby (50 miles away) Mansfield has been tapped to construct the carousel; they have one in Mansfield that has become a "destination", and it gives people a reason to go Downtown", according to a spokesman for the company. The planned Columbus carousel will "serve as an anchor" and "create a draw that will pull people Downtown", stating "that's what carousels have been doing since the turn of the century".

I presume she meant the turn of the 19th-into-20th centuries, since we had our own fin de siecle not so very long ago.

Not to be cynical, but a holiday-season Ferris wheel and an ice-skating rink, as well as the current firewalk on the river were supposed to suck in, er, draw in crowds. The first two died a quick and painful death (read: bad weather and apathy), while the third has done little to bring flocks of free-spending people back downtown. And whatever happened to that carousel from Ameriflora, circa 1992, anyway?

The difference now, of course, is the "synergies", according to the executive director.

See, the Ferris wheel did not work out because "we overestimated people's sense of adventure." But, it is different this time because, and I could not make up this quote, "Kids love coming Downtown...(and) taking the bus is like going to King's Island for them."

Oh, really? I am certainly happy I was never one of your kids, buddy.

Besides, while the carousel might not survive by itself, when you pair it with other Downtown activities (all of which are minimally six blocks away and most of which are at the opposite end of Downtown), it will serve as the piece de resistance to your Downtown spending spree, I mean, trip.

And there is this gem:

"The surprise element of the carousel may ultimately add to the park's intrigue." It will be located in the south end of the park in a grove of trees, not near the center of the park where "it might not be utilized"(!). The location in the trees will provide "a delightful element of surprise". No mention of how long that surprise will last, though.

The capper to the article, though, must be quoted at length:

"If an unrideable, frightening carousel is the worst case scenario, the second-worst might be a melodic spinning thing in the middle of Downtown that nobody but a handful of vagrants is able to enjoy.

Even that ain't all bad, Ricksecker said.

"A carousel will provide light and color and life to the city - even if people don't ride it."

Wow! They plan to charge a fee to ride this puppy, so if nobody rides it, how long will it take for them to come begging the county for money to keep this vital Downtown resource alive?


  1. I would go if you could take shots at those riding it. Of course that is what will happen if they put it in a secluded spot surrounded by trees. Either that or it will have so much graffiti on it it won't be the colors they envisioned.

  2. I'm surprised no one told them they already had a merry-go-round a few blocks the other way at the capital! they's missed their calling if this didn't get said somewhere in those alternative papers!