Psst… have I got a deal for you

by Ogi Overman

Anytime anyone has a grand idea, the first question asked is invariably, “How much?” And rightly so, provided it’s not just a way of being a contrarian who opposes, doubts and critiques everything that he didn’t think of himself. There are such unfortunates, and some of them live in Greensboro. But for the rest of you, my fellow civic-minded friends who understand that the cost-benefit ratio applies to everything worth having, here’s my amateur analysis of the best idea I’ve had since proposing Century Boulevard, the World’s Largest Soda Bottle or Bush’s impeachment, not necessarily in that order.

First the caveat: Like Sen. McCaint, I’m no economist, so these figures are a little rough. And bear in mind it’s the first draft, but I’m convinced the concept is sound.

As I posited last week, War Memorial Stadium needs to be transformed into a combination concert venue, Imax theater, skating rink, restaurant, bar, park, fountain pond, farmers market and all-round groovy gathering place. My vision loses baseball (more on that momentarily) but gains a multi-use showplace that can be enjoyed by literally the entire community. Moreover, I happily concede that there are other uses for the old ballyard that I haven’t even dreamed of yet that could be incorporated into mine.

After having laid out my vision, here’s the best I can come up with on cost figures, methods of raising capital and revenue streams upon completion. It’s short notice, but you gotta start somewhere.

First the initial costs: Demolition of third- and first-base bleachers — $1 million; renovation of backstop seats and Grandstand — $2 million; office suites down third-base line — $1 million; restaurant/bar in Grandstand — a half million; pond, fountain and hockey pipes — $1 million; Imax theater — $3 million; concert stage, lights, PA — a half million. Okay, that comes to $9 million.

But since we’re kicking out A&T’s and Greensboro College’s baseball teams, we owe it to them to build another one. Also, GTCC now has a program so let’s include them and build a nice 1,000-seat stadium in the $3-million range, including land acquisition. So now we’re up to a cool $12 million.

Since last week I’ve added a trolley from the Yanceyville Street park to several stops in town, including NewBridge Bank Park, Hamburger Square, Friendly Center and all the college campuses. Add another mil for that, and we’re at lucky 13.

At the moment the city has $1.5 million earmarked for renovations. We can probably squeeze $5 million out of the parks & rec bond Nov. 4. The county should be good for another million, and Action Greensboro should easily kick in $2 million. That puts us at $9.5 million, leaving only $3.5 mil needed in private funds. Then the onus becomes finding the right riverboat gambler/concert promoter/movie producer/land developer type who’s willing to put up the dough and recoup it in Imax tickets, concert revenues, food and beverage concessions and suite rentals.

Now, the beauty of this is that the collapse of Wall Street plays right into our hands, as a venture of this nature is less risky than the stock market right now, and the potential returns astronomically higher. Somebody out there has that kind of dough, and they’re just waiting to be sold on this notion.

Revenue streams are numerous, bordering on endless. In addition to 52 Imax shows a year at 12 bucks a pop and a dozen or so national-act concerts in the $25–40 range, consider this: Restaurant and bar tabs seven nights a week, 12 businesses paying leases, 50 produce vendors paying a nominal booth rental, skate rentals and concessionaires (both temporary and permanent). Any way you cut it this is a multi-million dollar operation. Unlike a venue such as a coliseum, this one requires lower overhead because most of it doesn’t have to be heated and cooled. With minimal upkeep, maintenance and staffing, this facility is a guaranteed money-maker.

Since we built the three colleges a ball field, we lease it back to them for a minimal charge to cover our upkeep costs. We also get a small share of concessions. Plus, we can make it available for Palomino, American Legion and high school games for a nominal fee.

So once initial cost is paid off, ownership — meaning revenues, meaning tax base, meaning tax cuts, meaning happy people — is split between the city/county and the entrepreneur who put up the remaining $5 mil (including cost overruns). It’s a gorgeous public/private partnership that will be emulated all over the country.

This is the type of gathering place that every 21st-century town needs. People will come here for lunch and eat at the various picnic tables around the pond. Budding Dylans and Arlos will serenade for quarters thrown in their guitar cases. Kids and teenagers will skate and adults will watch them. Farmers will make money every day of the week. Days will be lively and nights will be electric.

Go big, boys and girls, go big.

Ogi may be reached at and seen on “Triad Today” hosted by Jim Longworth on ABC 45 at 6:30 a.m. Fridays and on WMYV 48 at 10 p.m. Sundays.