Am I skating on thin ice or what?
Surely it was pure coincidence, but the juxtaposition of a recent sports piece and a news story does make one wonder. It was so perfectly timed that the stories appeared to be linked by more than random chronology, but probably not. More likely, the only connection between the two was that both media outlets brought out their top guns to do the stories. Because I’ve been harping on it for so long, I was probably the only one who noticed it, but, for what it’s worth, here it is.
During the Oct. 3 Monday night game between the Panthers and the Packers, ABC found one of the most gorgeous cutaway shots I’ve ever seen. As I’ve mentioned, these guys are the masters at finding the best angles to shoot artsy fade-ins and fade-outs, whether it be a skyline shot or a stadium shot or a blimp shot. And on a clear downtown Queen City evening they found a jewel.
It so happens that Charlotte has built a small lake a block or so from Bank of America Stadium (or maybe it was there all along and I never knew it). In the middle of the lake is a lighted fountain, and there appeared to be ambient lighting around the lake, and the two together illuminated the water and trees with a picture-postcard glow. And with the stadium serving as the backdrop, the whole shot took on almost a surreal quality. I knew at that moment that at some point I would get a column out of this, but a couple of weeks later the story became much more compelling. On Oct. 20 the News & Record ran an A1 story, written by the best feature writer in these parts, Jim Schlosser, about the possibility of turning the tract of land between the Depot and MLK drive into a park. That in itself is good news but it was made infinitely better by the revelation that Action Greensboro envisions several ponds as the centerpiece of the park.
Now, as a handful of you may recall, I have been proposing a downtown lake since before Action Greensboro came into existence. But my idea goes a step further. I envision laying some hockey pipes under the surface and turning it into a frozen pond from December through March. I can see not only skaters but a landscaped walking path complete with benches, kiosks, coffee and hot chocolate vendors, strolling minstrels, heated areas, trellised hanging gardens, a food court, etc.
The beauty of this is that the tentative proposal by my friend Susan Schwartz, executive director of Action Greensboro, calls for not one large lake but several smaller ponds. One of those ponds, it seems to me, could be about the size of, oh, maybe a hockey rink. (Hmm, wonder if the Coliseum would be willing to part with their unused pipes now that hockey in Greensboro has passed into memory. Just a thought.)
My contention all along is that Greensboro needs something unique, something that sets it apart from the ordinary, something that gives downtown a touristy feel. Don’t get me wrong; I love the new ballpark, I love the park under construction at Friendly and Elm, I love green spaces and biking trails and residential development and bars and restaurants and theater and all the neat things going on downtown. They are all vital and necessary to the ongoing revitalization. But’…
This is not a knock but the fact is, every town has these things. Lovely as they are, there is nothing really eye-popping about a new bar or coffee shop opening up downtown or a bike path or a specialty boutique. And, yes, if they ever finish the rotary at Greene and McGee streets, that will add a nice touch but, again, go to Massachusetts and see how unique they are.
I am not implying that a frozen pond would automatically make Greensboro the hottest tourist destination north of Disney World ‘— because it doesn’t need to be. This is something that we could do for ourselves that would have the added benefit of being attractive to tourists, new businesses and folks looking to relocate. All these things taken as a whole have the potential to make Our Town one of the most livable cities around.
It is that intangible quality-of-life quotient that attracts new business to the area. When a vibrant downtown is combined with a quality public school system, good roads and infrastructure, good year-round climate, an ample work force, a tolerant social and racial attitude, sports venues, universities and an easily accessible airport, this area becomes a genuinely attractive place for new and/or relocated businesses.
Not that it really matters, but it would also give us something Charlotte doesn’t have.
Ogi can be reached at ogi@yesweekly and heard each Tuesday from 9:30 ‘– 10 a.m. on WGOS 1070 AM.