Commanding Chaos for Coworking, Open Source and Creative Communities

Cultural Wasteland or a Football Shangri-La?

Fri, 12/17/2010 - 09:32 -- rprice

I'm a regular reader of the Orlando Business Journal's blogs. As far as I know, they don't post all of their articles online. I get a lot of great info from the blogs though, and they help me keep in touch with my city in ways that I don't get from other publications.

Yesterday Richard Bilbao posted a blog called "Which should come first: Citrus Bowl or performing arts center?" where he asks if the new performing arts center in downtown should get put on the back burner in favor of the stinky old football stadium, because it's old, stinky, rusty, and seen by almost 100,000 people over the course of 2 days in December.

If you ask me, for the rest of the year, it would be lucky to be seen by 100,000 people who aren't driving West on the 408. Since UCF pulled out, very few regular events are left that happen there. This is something that was debated ad nauseum 2 years ago when all this Venues hype was going around, and before tourism taxes took a nosedive.

The second point he makes is that the Citrus Bowl will bring in almost 6 times the amount of tourism taxes. I'd like to see the math on that one. So would commenter David P.:

This is more than a bit misleading. Some (most?) of the noted $200M revenue projection for the renovated Citrus Bowl is ALREADY being generated and thus isn't additive. The projected revenues from the Performing Arts Center are ENTIRELY additive. Come on folks!

The Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center will have other, non-monetary, benefits as well. Just last night I was talking to some people about the seemingly worldwide perception that Orlando is a "cultural wasteland". I think the DPAC can help us to change that, but not simply by existing. Let me explain:

People in our society fail to take the long view, I think. They say "If I just had another $1000 I could get X and be happy", "If Urban ReThink was just open today, I could get more work done", "If the EDC just gave money to little guys like me, I could make some waves in this town". While any of these might be true, the preconditions are all superficial.

Saying that "If we just had a better performing arts space, we could stop being a cultural wasteland", is similarly flawed, but we know how people think. I could say the same of Creative Village. As someone who has toiled in the Grassroots for the last 4 years, I see the Creative Village as a way to help put Central Florida on the map. I know I'm being narrow-minded, but I still think that. What is really going to put Orlando on the map from a cultural, entrepreneurial, and otherwise awesome perspective is not about the amenities.

At the same time, things like Creative Village and DPAC have some built-in benefits that the Citrus Bowl project does not. DPAC is going to house administrative offices for Orlando's "Big Three" arts organizations. (sadly, the Opera folded, but I'm sure someone is in the #3 spot now) This encourages these organizations to do cross-promotions, collaborate, or just go to lunch and share knowledge. The same will be true of Urban ReThink, and any of the companies that choose to move in to the Creative Village. Proximity is necessary for massive reactions in Chemistry as it is in the Creative world.

What new opportunities will the renovated Citrus Bowl create? What groups, organizations and movements will an updated stadium create or enable? Sure, it will bring some revenue, but in the "big picture" view, a few hundred thousand people get a cushier trip to Florida. I think our amenities are pretty damn world class as it is - let's try to serve our citizens instead of Bowl Game attendees. If Orlando were getting a pro sports team, I'd have a somewhat different view, but not wholly. I'd still think that an updated stadium isn't creating anything on top of income for the local government.

If you think otherwise, or you can prove me wrong, please do so. I'm not trying to say I have all the answers, and up to this point the argument is fairly one sided. Volley served, your move.

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