Take first this reflective piece in the PG: Playoff baseball to give PNC Park time to shine
The article expounds on a pretty undeniable reflection on history that PNC Park would not exist if not for former Mayor Murphy's perseverance after the collapse of the Regional Renaissance Initiative (RRI).Remember the RRI? It was the multi-county half percent sales tax measure that was going to fund building TWO new stadia town along with a new convention center and a series of industrial parks. The proposal was put up to a referendum which failed everywhere resoundingly, even within Allegheny County. The RRI failed even within the city of Pittsburgh I will point out. 25 of 32 city wards voted against RRI, balanced a bit by overwhelming pro-RRI support concentrated in city wards 7 and 14. An even stronger case could be made that the David Lawrence Convention center in its current LEED certified glory would not exist for Mayor Murphy's effort to see the project funded after RRI. That is something I have mentioned before, yet something systematically revised out of history. Just think, no new convention center, and likely there would have been no G-20 and the world would continue to think Pittsburgh was a backwater bygone of the Rust Belt.
But now compare the PG story to this post recently written by Bill Steigerwald on his blog: Peduto’s Paradox — Free advice to Pittsburgh’s next mayor. Bill shows some pretty clear antagonism for the former Mayor and all that he accomplished during his tenure, especially that which was accomplished against the popular will, as it were. The post focuses more on the proposed Fifth and Forbes retail concept, but the same arguments were made against all that Murphy engineered to fund the new stadia and convention center. Ironically much of the opposition to Fifth and Forbes was raised by the small businesses that would be displaced by the development. People loved the card store and even more so the 99 year old wig store that was in the construction zone. Where are those businesses located now? There is a small bit of construction going on right now coterminus to where the Fifth and Forbes construction would have been concentrated.
There may never be a resolution to the two viewpoints on what Murphy accomplished in office. At least not before the historians take charge of the debate which will not be for decades.
original 1963 Stadium Proposal put together by the URA. Look familiar? That original vision did not last and was replaced by the multipurpose (or no-purpose) architecture that became Three Rivers Stadium (which only exists virtually today as a web site , and semi-virtually, or pathologically, as a local government of course). Later on it would be Mayor Sophie Masloff who suggested the need for a new baseball stadium was needed here despite the existence of Three Rivers
Of course the need for the stadium was predicated on there being a baseball team in town that needed it. People forget the Pirates almost left town when longtime owners the Galbraith's announced they intended to sell the team nearly 30 years ago in 1984. Not the easiest of environments to get a prospective owner to invest in a Pittsburgh-based asset. It was Mayor Caliguiri that put together a coalition of owners to buy the team and keep it in town back in 1985. Think how easy it would have been to justify moving the team away from the economic miasma of Pittsburgh to any of the fast growing and team-less regions in the South or West in the decade before MLB expansion came to fill the void. The city became the owner of last resort and used a variety of public funding mechanisms to buy the team. For a time the city of Pittsburgh was, along with a myriad set of corporate partners and Carnegie Mellon University, the owner of a professional baseball team. That coalition was a real public/private partnership and bridged the team until it was eventually resold to the McClatchy led coalition years later. No denying the role of the city and in particular mayoral leadership in that.
Still, the vision for a new baseball stadium that became PNC Park only came together because Murphy was willing to continue working to fund the project despite the aprobation of the voters. It was a characterstic that wound up costing him dearly in terms of popular support. Yet without the very same characteristics, it is pretty unlikely there would be a new baseball stadium in town? If the stadium had not been built, would the Pirates be in town today? That is a rhetorical question actually. Part of the deal in constructing PNC Park was a pretty ironclad agreement the team would have to stay in town for at least 30 years. (read the actual contract if you wish)