Sunday, February 28, 2010
One asset that Evansville has failed to take advantage of has been the Ohio River. Even though Evansville has a rich history with the Ohio River, which allowed for the city to make ships, become a major industrial manufacturer, and enjoy early economic prosperity downtown, most Evansville residents don't live near the river and usually don't partake in any activities that involve the river today. This is a terrible mistake that Evansville must correct.
What should Evansville do to correct this mistake and what are some cities to look to for ideas? The two cities that come to mind to me are Memphis ( http://pyramidharbor.com/ ) which had a plan to add resorts, retail, and a themepark to its Mississippi riverfront (They're currently negotiating with Bass Pro Shops right now) and Pittsburgh which allows for its tourists to kayak and canoe the three rivers ( http://www.kayakpittsburgh.org/ ). I think it's pretty reasonable to say that move Evansville residents would support resorts, retail, the amphitheater that was originally planned during the riverfront renovations, and a new marina, but what about actually getting residents and tourists actually on the river?
Evansville accomplished this task several years ago when Casino Aztar came to town. Unfortunately, Kentucky put up quite a battle over the fact that it was a gambling riverboat and it has since been docked. I would be shocked if Aztar ever took it back out on the river as they have recently applied for a dockside gambling license. This has left a void in the market of river tourism that needs to be fixed.
Back in August of 2008, I took a vacation to Hannibal, Missouri. Hannibal was the hometown of Mark Twain and is very historic. You can see many of the things that were in his books as well as partake in several other historic attractions. However, the one thing that grabs the most tourists is the Mark Twain Riverboat.
I must say that the riverboat was quite an experience. The price was reasonable and I enjoyed a great dinner, great music, and a nice voyage down the mighty Mississippi. It seems to me that a riverboat like this would fit in well with Evansville. It would offer great, affordable entertainment, it would renew Evansville's passion with the Ohio River, and it would draw a fair amount of tourists from all over the region to downtown Evansville. Most importantly, it won't cost an arm and a leg to implement and it's very doable.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
After my recent article made it into the Courier & Press opinions section (article below), I have been approached to help start a committee that will work on getting Evansville Moving Forward and several people have already expressed interest in joining the committee. We plan on starting out by doing 10-15 doable things and then progressing onto the big projects that Evansville desperately needs. I hope you will consider joining us too. Our first meeting is going to be this Friday February 26th at 10 A.M at Innovation Point which is 318 Main Street. I hope all of you will sincerely consider joining us as we fight to get this town going in the right direction.... If you can't make the first meeting that is fine, we will be having subsequent meetings after it.
If you are thinking about going to the meeting please email me at JordanBaer1@gmail.com so that we can get an approx headcount. If you cannot no worries, walk-ins are welcome too. Tell as many people as you know and feel free to bring as many people as you can to the meeting. Lets Get It Started!!!!!
Monday, February 22, 2010
How to Recruit Large Manufacturing Employers While Improving the Local Universities at the Same Time
I try to keep my political beliefs off this board because I want this blog to be about the city of Evansville and how to improve it. However, I must give a little background on one of my beliefs in order to explain why I am very passionate about this topic. My belief is this: Public schools, whether they be middle schools, grade schools, high schools, or universities are extremely unfair, backwards, and out of touch with the needs of their communities.
In regards to middle schools and high schools, I believe it is unfair for citizens who did not go to a public school to be forced to foot the bill when they have already paid for themself to go to a private school. With that being said, I realize that tuition is tough on some families. For this reason, I have proposed two solutions to lower and/or eliminate tuition costs for public schools. They can be found on this blog. Here are their links:
In regards to universities, I can personally attest to their broken system. I got a 3.6 GPA and graduated with all academic honors from a private high school whose grading system was higher, yet I got ZERO scholarships or grants from the University of Kentucky simple because I came from out of state. I'm also against any scholarship or grant that doesn't judge a students GPA and instead judges them based on their race, gender, ethnicity, religious affiliation, or zip code.
Instead of giving out money like it's candy, today's universities need to reward students based on their work ethic and school results using the private sector. They also need to be used as a recruiting tool for local businesses. Since my time at UK, I have always envied a program at the University of Louisville called Earn and Learn.
With the UofL/ UPS Earn and Learn program, a student who works part-time at UPS is eligible for up $15,000 in educational assistance. It doesn't stop there though. UofL also works with the student and UPS to make sure that their class schedule is arranged around their work hours. And because the Commonwealth of Kentucky is a part of the program, students get the rest of their tuition paid for by the state as well as their books too. I have always wondered why UK couldn't do this same program and the only answer that I have ever gotten has been that it is "unique in nature." I don't believe that is true because the program has now extended to 51 universities and cities including Indianapolis.
So, how should Evansville go about implementing this program? First of all, this program was originally set up in order to ensure that if UPS set up its air hub in Louisville it would have a big enough work force to support it. This program may not work for just any regular sized business although I see no reason why the UPS location here couldn't do the same even though it's not a hub. It's a shame that Whirlpool has already made the decision to relocate to Mexico as I believe this program would have allowed for them to stay competitive with a base in Evansville. The main reason why I am proposing this on the business side is because I believe this would give Evansville a tremendous boost over competing cities for manufacturing companies who are looking to relocate. With this program, the government funds that are used for economic development are also used to improve the local universities as well.
For example, if Evansville were to decide that they want to build the slack waterport in the Howell Railyards that I have proposed, the city and state could offer an Earn and Learn program for large manufacturing companies such as train builders, rock molders, steal welders, as well as companies that are already in Evansville like Berry Plastics, Toyota, and UPS. The companies wouldn't have to pay their workers as much since they're getting a free education and instead of Evansville and Indiana cutting a blank check to companies they would be spending their economic development funds on education. This would help strengthen universities like UE and USI who would be able to attract the best students in the country over other schools. A win-win for everyone!
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Microsofts PRT http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TIOA6ExOq6c&feature=related
German version of PRT http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6UO26lYB8CI
Another useful link with a video walk through http://www.taxi2000.com/
1. Safety: You drive with people who are drunk, reckless, or just plain dumb. This leads to over 40,000 deaths each year and millions in damages because the system isn't automated. PRT is automated and it will dramatically reduce pedestrian deaths as well since almost all of the system is elevated or buried.
2. Successful System: You just can't build enough parking garages to keep up with the auto and you can't build enough highways to keep up with congestion. PRT moves pods to empty stations costs a fraction of what roads cost to build and it pays for itself through fares and ads.
3. Affordability: What happens if you're not filthy rich and you go on a road trip and your car's transmission goes out? You're in a bind. That happened to me. With PRT thats not a problem. System workers fix it. No need for the BMV or auto insurance companies either. WVU's system works 98% of the time.
4. Faster: If you look at the Interstate Traveller Project http://www.interstatetraveler.us/ , you can go 300 mph for 5 cents an hour because the system is able to reap benefits off utility transportation too. I wouldn't want to be on the road with anyone going 300 mph. PRT can handle in one guideway what a three lane freeway can handle.
5. Cleaner: Runs off electricity. ( I know currently coal, but solar, wind, and tide will be available shortly) No oil and gas needed http://prtstrategies.com/solar.html
6. Shipping. An automated pod can move a palet of goods to a store by itself. http://prtstrategies.com/goodsmovement.html
7. Jobs: PRT can be built right here in the US inside of auto plants that are currently closing or failing.
8. Land use: It's no secret that U.S cities are running out of space and are resorting to urban sprawl. Part of the problem is the lack of skyscrapers in some cities, but another solution to the problem is to stop building massive highways that take up land that can be used for tall skyscrapers, amazing sports facilities, and beautiful parks. PRT is underground and above ground.
9. Good spin off to High Speed Rail: Tourists who will be coming by high speed rail can simple jump on a PRT at the station. Currently they would have to go through all that red tape at the car rental place or get on a subway that may not go to where they need to get.
10. Other uses. Guideways on the PRT system can also transport other utilities and even water the crops beneath it. See the Interstate Traveller Project link above. This could in the future be used for what I would like to see be an automated at home mail system (http://forum.skyscraperpage.com/showthread.php?t=177196). Auto can not do ANY of this.
The benefits to PRT are obvious yet only Morgantown, West Virginia has this system. If Evansville builds this system now, tourists will come from all over the globe to see it, and it will change Evansville's negative image as being a regressive town into a positive one as a city moving forward.
Monday, February 15, 2010
Thanks to Former Evansville councilman Steve Bagbey, the new Evansville arena is going to be built and it's going to be built downtown. This is a tremendous step in the right direction for bringing downtown back to life. Time and time again it has been proven that sports facilities revitalize struggling downtowns whether it be Toledo, Dayton, Detroit, Orlando, or Indianapolis (formely known as naptown before the RCA Dome came to town). Mayor Weinzapfel has already said there are various developers who will build downtown next to the arena. This is great news, and I'm extremely confident this project will be a success. However, there are a few things I would have done differently.
First of all, the current plan is to build the arena on two blocks: one that is bounded by locust, main st, mlk, and 6th, and the other which is half of a block on the old Executive Inn atrium lot bounded by locust, walnut, mlk, and 6th streets. The arena is going to have a seating capacity of 10,000-12,000 seats for basketball and hockey. Construction is expected to be complete late 2011.
This was the report the city conducted for the arena: http://www.evansvillegov.org/download/Events%20Center.pdf
In regards to the seating capacity, I think it's going to be too small. This arena had to have been at least 14,000 seats to even draw the NCAA's attention and it is way below that. The reason given is that Evansville needs an arena that fits its size. I believe that is the reason Evansville failed to grow in the first place. It failed to plan for the future, and it failed to realize that in order to grow you have to build things bigger and better than other cities. The Qwest Center in Omaha was recently expanded to hold 17,560 and has been able to draw enormous events that still won't consider Evansville. In my opinion, Evansville should have built an arena that would hold between 18,000 to 20,000 seats. It would have attracted NCAA tournament games, bigger concerts, and would have been a landmark for the region. One can only hope that Evansville will consider expanding this arena within the first 5-10 years after its construction.
As far as the location goes, I think the current plan has a lot of good attributes to it but I would have done it a little different too. I believe the city made a good decision in locating the arena next to Main Street, the Executive Inn, and the Centre but I think it made a bad decision partially demolishing the Executive Inn. Even though the Executive Inn was struggling, I'm not convinced it needed to be partially demolished. I already miss that huge tower that lit up the downtown skyline each night. With a 18k-20k seat arena with it, the atrium part of the Executive Inn would have been packed, and even if there wasn't sufficient demand for a hotel that part of it could have been converted into gameday condos. The original plan was to build the arena in the D-Patrick parking lot but that would have failed to touch main street which is a huge disadvantage for the revitalization efforts of Main Street.
So what would my final location have been? Since my arena would have been bigger, I would have purchased four lots: The two current ones, the D-Patrick lot with its office building, and the block on Main Street just south of the current one the arena is going to be on. I would have designed the arena so that it faced MLK and the Centre where one whole side of the arena would go along Main Street. The side of the arena on Main Street would have had the current historical buildings built into the side of it and it would have featured several arena style restaurants and shops like the ones built into the Verizon Center in Washington D.C (picture below). On the other side, I would have built the Executive Inn atrium into the arena so that condo and hotel guests could simple walk right into their luxury boxes and club seats on gameday. I would still have demolished the pool area on the Executive Inn lot where I would set up a gathering plaza similar to the one Louisville is building with their new arena. The remaining D-Patrick lot would be left open for future ballpark village development.
With all of that being said, the current arena layout is already under construction so we must now focus on what to do with the arena. I have 3 proposals
1. Recruit an NBDL team: The NBA has started a minor league where it teams can send their players down for assignment. Although there is already a team in Indiana (Fort Wayne) there is still plenty of region teams that need an affiliate. Chicago, Memphis, and Indiana could use an Evansville NBDL team to send its players down for assignment and be able to call them back up quickly. Evansville would be able to fill 28 event dates with an NBDL team.
2. Bring back the Evansville Bluecats: Although the Bluecats of the Indoor Football League have ceased operations currently, things have changed. Obviously the new arena will help bring in a whole lot more people than Roberts Stadium did, but the indoor football leagues have also reorganized under a business modal that I believe stands a better chance of being successful going forward. Rivalries could be renewed with Fort Wayne, Lexington (If they come back and Evansville moves up in leagues), and maybe Owensboro one day. This would bring in at least 7 more event dates.
3. Make bids for NCAA tournaments and recruit USI to move in: Although the arena is small, it will still be in an excellent position to host the Div II basketball championship as well as several other championships. Eventually, USI will outgrow the PAC and will be looking towards building a new arena. Instead of building a new arena on campus, the Screaming Eagles could move in downtown with the Aces. This would bring in another additional 18 event dates and would allow USI to move up to division I basketball which would make for a great rivalry with UE.
If Evansville can commit to putting these 3 things in the new arena, improve the ACES basketball program, move the Evansville Icemen into the arena, and begin recruiting top notch concerts, the future looks bright for the new arena and downtown Evansville!
Friday, February 5, 2010
Now that the arena deal is signed, sealed, and on its way to being delivered, Robert Stadium will be without its main tenant and has probably seen its last days as an arena (an arena not a stadium despite its name!). I must admit, I am against tearing down an sports facility whether it be an arena, a stadium, a ballpark, etc because I believe 1. They have a lot of history 2. Their architectural design is great cultural art 3. Unless they're significantly damaged structurally, they can almost always be used in some way, shape, or form.
Roberts Stadium is no exception to these rules. Roberts Stadium is over 50 years old, it has a nice design to it, and although it is currently sinking it can be repaired given the proper tenant.
Rumor has it, the Jehovah Witness' have made a huge offer for Roberts Stadium. If true, the odds of Roberts Stadium staying intact would be great so I would support the sale.
However, the main thing I would like to see on the site is what was recommended for Roberts Stadium: A water park resort.
Granted I have never been to Big Splash Adventure Water Park & Resort in French Lick, Indiana but I still believe the concept would be a huge success for Evansville. Since the plans to add a lazy river to Burdette Park were never realized and Kentucky Kingdom decided to close today, the time to act is now.
Originally, I felt that Roberts Stadium itself would be the perfect venue for a water resort, but with the Jehovah Witness' bidding a nice offer for it, I have gone back to the drawing board and came up with a better solution(s).
The city can do 1 of 3 things:
1. Tear down Hartke Pool like they did the old Swonder Ice Rink and build a new water resort on that land.
2. Build a new water resort in the Roberts Stadium parking lot and enclose Hartke Pool inside of it.
3. Build a new water resort in the Roberts Stadium parking lot separate and completely away from Hartke Pool.
Of the three proposals that I have formulated, tearing down Hartke Pool seems to be the worst since it's already an outdoor water park that would compliment the indoor resort , tearing it down would only add to the costs, and very little parking would be gained from it.
As for the other 2 proposals, I'm fine with either one as long as an outdoor lazy river is incorporated the design. My ultimate vision for the site would be to have an indoor water resort that has an indoor/outdoor lazy river that runs through the parking lot, through wesselman woods, and into or next to a rebuilt Wabash & Erie Canal (depending on if the water was clean or canal water). For this single reason, I leave proposal #3 on the table due to the fact that it might be a good idea to build the water resort behind Roberts and closer to the canal.
With that being said, my dream proposal is to build a new water park resort next to Hartke Pool with a retractable roof like the one in French Lick. There would need to be a deal stuck with the Jehovah Witness or whoever owns Roberts to ensure that plenty of parking is left for their events and so that the water park resort can share parking with them in order to ensure that Roberts Stadium isn't just a massive parking field like it is now (its main problem now). Hartke Pool would compliment the new resort perfectly, either as an outdoor neighbor or an indoor extension.
My main point is this: If they can build it in French Lick, they can build it in Evansville!