OFFBEAT: Play ball with me

SANDUSKY I like to float ideas on how to revive Sandusky's downtown. I thought I'd ru
Tom Jackson
May 24, 2010

SANDUSKY

I like to float ideas on how to revive Sandusky's downtown.

I thought I'd run across a humdinger when I was reading "Play by Play," a book by National Public Radio correspondent Neal Conan about his adventures when he went on leave to handle play by play radio broadcasts for a minor league team in Aberdeen, Md.

What caught my attention was a couple of sentences about the success of baseball franchises on the East Coast.

"Minor league parks could revive small downtowns the same way that Oriole Park at Camden Yards cemented the redevelopment of Baltimore Inner Harbor," wrote Conan. "Within five years, independent teams were playing in Newark, Atlantic City, Bridgewater and Montclair, another park was rising in Camden ... and there was talk of a team in Hackensack."

Hey, I thought. Sandusky has a downtown it is trying to revive.

A minor league team would provide families who had spent all day riding the roller coasters or splashing in the water park something to do in the evening.

An Erie County team would be a pretty long drive away from competing pro baseball teams in Cleveland and Toledo and could serve a local baseball market.

Perhaps some of the local businesses which depend on marketing to families could help provide the needed corporate sponsorship a new baseball franchise would need.

It sounded pretty good to me.

Then I started to worry about the cost of a stadium.

A new minor league team would need a nice new stadium, such as the one the AA Akron Aeros enjoy.

That can run into millions of dollars. Eastlake, Ohio, in Lake County, has struggled with the financial burden of building a stadium for its minor league team, the Lake County Captains.

And in fact, Conan recounts in his book how his minor league team, the Aberdeen Arsenal in Maryland, went out of business after a deal to build a new minor league team collapsed for lack of corporate sponsorships.

So unless somebody locally has a few million dollars to spend, or unless some kind of grant would be available, getting a minor league team going in Sandusky could be a struggle.

But what's your idea to bring people to downtown?

I've tossed out a couple of suggestions. I wanted to offer free Wi-Fi in downtown Sandusky to lure in visitors, and I'm a big fan of the proposal to open up an Underground Railroad Museum here.

Sandusky obviously has its own ideas to encourage condo development and development of the waterfront and is putting in a network of walking paths and a new offshore water trail.

If readers have any ideas of their own to offer, I'd be happy to pass them along in my column. My e-mail address is above.

By the way, I'm not quite ready to let go of one of my old ideas.

The city where I live, Berea, has a county library branch that has offered free Wi-Fi, wireless Internet access, for some time, just as the Sandusky Library does.

Berea has extended that by also offering free Wi-Fi in the library parking lot, and the park next to the library. Anyone with a wireless Internet device can stop by to check e-mail or surf the Internet.

I wonder how difficult it would be to extend the Wi-Fi from the Sandusky Library to the courthouse grounds and the nearby Sandusky park?

And how much would it cost to provide the access for a few selected city blocks of downtown Sandusky, so visitors (or residents) would have a little added incentive to come to downtown Sandusky? Are there foundations that give out money for that sort of thing?

I'm still curious whether Wi-Fi could help make Sandusky more attractive to young adults. Getting young adults interested in Sandusky and keeping them here is one of the key issues in a new report commissioned by GEM, Greater Erie Marketing Group Inc.