The Race to Keep Up With the Jones’s
By Andrew Richter
How many times do we see this. One city has a hockey rink and the next city wants one. Once city has a pool the next city wants one. One city has a community center the next city wants one. It’s called keeping up with the Jones’s.
Recently here in the Twin Cities, though, this brainless concept has reached a fever pitch to the point where even the Communist Star Tribune has written about it!
Mark Windschitl admits it took some convincing to bring him around. When he first heard the idea of creating a regional curling center, the mayor of Chaska recalls, “I thought, ‘What are we thinking about?’ ” A plan to put in new playground equipment, trails, picnic shelters and redo a beach at a city park had morphed into a much more ambitious venture that also encompassed a 40,000-square-foot complex with curling rinks, an event center and a city-supported ale house, at a cost capped at $20 million.
Curling rinks? Capped at $20 million????
Chaska is not the only place dreaming big when it comes to sports. Twin Cities suburbs are in the midst of a major boom in recreational facilities — an amenities arms race in which each is keenly conscious of what other cities are cooking up.
Yeah it gets worse;
Shakopee is weighing $32 million in projects. Eden Prairie is completing the first phase of a $21 million aquatic center whose cost billowed from a mere $3 million. Woodbury is struggling to complete the glitziest features of a $22 million sports center expansion. Driving the building boom are a number of factors, including a desire to attract young, more affluent families. Such amenities build civic pride and create community gathering places, city leaders say. “If you look across communities in the Twin Cities and you talk to mayors, residents, Realtors, you learn that a lot of communities have a strong point, a feature, something that makes them stand out,” said Eden Prairie Mayor Nancy Tyra-Lukens. “Those things are important for marketing your community.”
You have to be kidding me!
Critics say the projects are way over the top, especially considering the long-term costs to operate and maintain them. They worry that cities are vying for smaller shares of a shrinking market as suburban growth rates slow and the number of children dwindles. And they complain that community leaders are dodging the democratic process. Chaska is already studded with major city-owned recreational amenities, not all of them prospering. Its latest project was never subjected to a citywide referendum.
Well, of course why give people a vote on it!