Feature, October 19, 2006

Our Field of Dreams (Not Gehry's)

Editor's Note: Last week Randall Roberts exposed Emily Pulitzer's secret plan for Ballpark Village. Instead of kitschy souvenir shops and an ESPN Zone, downtown St. Louis was going to get a shiny new cultural center designed by a world-class architect that would include a new home for the Rep, Opera Theatre and Stanley Elkin's papers, not to mention long-shuttered Kiel Opera House, which would be triumphantly wheeled down Market Street and deposited across the street from Mike Shannon's restaurant.

Preposterous, you say?

Well, yeah. Emily Pulitzer didn't organize or offer to finance anything. Architect Frank O. Gehry didn't design anything or criticize anyone. Mike Shannon didn't say, "It's a knuckleball, thrown by a knucklehead." It was all a satire, a parody: fiction intended to make a point.

Some readers spotted it immediately; some didn't. Several people, including news reporters, called or wrote to ask if the tale was true. To anyone who asked, we owned right up.

Our intention wasn't to dupe; it was to broaden the debate about the fate of the muddy crater that, even as the Cardinals vie for postseason glory in the national spotlight, lies untouched just beyond the new Busch Stadium's left-field stands. (Plus, it was cool to fantasize that downtown might be in line for an edifice to rival the Guggenheim in Bilbao.)

If "A Whole New Ballgame" is outrageous, so are the facts: Ballpark Village isn't going to build itself. And now that the Cardinals have raised the issue of public funding — reminding city leaders that the ballclub pledged a (comparatively) paltry $60 million toward the cost of redeveloping the prime piece of acreage — shouldn't we all start talking about what might or might not get put there?

Regardless of whether you "got" Roberts' approach, the story found its mark: At least for a little while, on blogs, on radio shows and in our e-mail inbox, people were talking.

Please, no sculptures! Why would we want to build something to compete with the new stadium? Isn't Ballpark Village supposed to supplement it? Gehry's buildings are disruptive. They shout "Look at me! Look how innovative I am!" The problem is that his "buildings" are actually sculptures.

I'm from Seattle and the Experience Music Project is a nightmare on the inside. It's about as effective as having a restaurant and art gallery crammed in the twists and turns of the Statue of Liberty. To put it another way: Gehry's Ballpark Village looks like the renovation that took place at Soldier Field in Chicago: a classic building "enhanced" by a space-age look. St. Louis already has an incredible landmark in the Arch. Why muck up the skyline with an eyesore?
Tad Trier, St. Louis

Where's the doggone ESPN Zone? After reading your story (and the confidential e-mails) about the newly proposed plan for Ballpark Village, I must say that I am rather disappointed with these new plans. I, like Mike Shannon, was looking forward to new restaurants, shops, condominiums and most importantly the ESPN Zone. Needless to say, I was pretty stoked! However this proposed "cultural" village seems as if it will be completely out of place next to a ballpark, and even more out of place next to the new casino they plan to build, etc. I mean really, who gets fired up for a Cardinals game by going to the friggin' opera, by watching a play or by reading some prose from an author whose work obviously wasn't good enough to turn into a Spielberg movie, let alone a Sunday night CBS miniseries (just joking!).

And really, after losing my rent money at that fancy new casino, do you think that watching a matinee performance of Fiddler on the Roof is going to somehow turn my frown upside down? It won't, but watching the Cardinals kick the crap of the Astros and then having a beer at the ESPN Zone would surely ease the pain of knowing that I'm newly homeless and should've saved the box my plasma TV came in.

But seriously, the fans want what we were promised, nothing more, nothing less! Don't get me wrong, I think cultural attractions are extremely important to the fabric of a city, but not when it's next to a ballpark and around the corner from a Hooters. If I want culture, then I will go seek it, but when I'm at the game I want to be surrounded by the elements of the game, and opera ain't one of them. I just think it's a disgrace to Cardinal fans to put the Ballpark Village construction into the hands of an out-of-touch, elderly wack job who seems to only have her interests at heart, and an architect who stated that he doesn't like baseball.

So my message to all parties involved is simply this: Yes, having a new fancy-shmancy opera house would be a nice addition to downtown, but would you really want Budweiser stains on that newly laid Berber carpet, or drunken Cubs fans beating the crap out of the Blue Man Group? I think not. So shut up and give me my damn ESPN Zone!
William Brown, Florissant

Take back our downtown! Gehry's plan might seem a bit elitist to Mike Shannon, but the original Ballpark Village plan was pandering to the lowest common denominator. Better to have a stunning signature building than more of the faux-retro corporate sellout theme park that is our new Busch Stadium. St. Louis was sold a bill of goods by the Cardinals' owners; let's take our downtown back. After all, we paid for it.
Wes Fordyce, St. Louis

Feature, October 19, 2006

Clark vs. Clark

All hail Peyton "Bud" Clark! Malcolm Gay has insulted the Discovery Expedition of St. Charles, insulted my father and insulted the Clark family ["Lewis & Clark & Clark & Clark"]What kind of journalist writes such a one-sided pack of lies? Scorning the efforts of DESC? Sneering at my dad? Calling him one of many Clarks?

My dad is a standout amongst all Clarks! He has earned his place, devoting a lot of his life to learning the history, and not because he had any plans of portraying Clark, but because he was proud of his heritage and interested in the artifacts of the period.

He knows the weapons down to the last screw. He has met and formed friendships with many noted historians. He met them in his travels in the last 25-plus years of horse-trading on the L&C trail for L&C artifacts. When researching his artifacts, he called them. When they wrote a book, he bought it and read it. When seeking information about our family genealogy, he called them. Since the 1980s, when there was a National Trail Heritage meeting, he attended it. He is now on their board of directors. Did you also know that it was he and his brother John who spearheaded the project to have William Clark's grave and monument restored? He has been asked to speak at numerous events and symposiums — not just because he is a Clark, but because he has a firm grasp of the history and a way of expressing himself that is a pleasure to witness. That, coupled with a collection of documents and artifacts passed down through our family and many pieces that he bought back from collectors that previous generations had sold. Did you know that my dad is the one of the most respected antique firearms collectors in the country?

Who are you to criticize him and the hard work of DESC? The Discovery Expedition will go down in history as the best example of how future generations should commemorate the next centennial. To print that quote from Churchill — "William who?" was unforgivable. You should be ashamed. No one person did more than Peyton "Bud" Clark during this entire bicentennial — and for many years prior — to teach the story of Willam Clark and the Lewis & Clark expedition.

It's reassuring to know that you won't be publishing any more articles about Lewis & Clark this century. I'm glad you put it in the title so we can all be sure. Thank God there will be no more irresponsible, disgusting garbage.
Lisa Clark, Garden City, Michigan

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