Then, twenty-five years after the Evil Councilmen had prevented
A Hatcher property at 702 John St., 2004
Hatcher acquired many other properties that now are in the area designated for the athletic complex. On
Most of the houses in the athletic complex area are gone, as is the Selby factory. Where once it had stood, employing thousands of workers, nothing remains but massive stone slabs piled up like corpses, which have been an eyesore for years. The acres of property Hatcher had acquired for his shopping mall lay devastated, like a London neighborhood that had been leveled by a German V2 rocket in the Second World War.
Hatcher’s critics accuse him of letting property he acquires fall into such disrepair that adjacent property values plummet and pressure is put on people to sell and move out. Take a look at the former Workmen’s Compensation building, at
Something went wrong and Hatcher’s shopping mall never materialized. Like the shopping mall of 1980, Hatcher’s mall was a castle in the air. The Prince of Eminent Domain was faced with the prospect of a huge financial loss on all those acres he had bought. However, in accordance with the principle of No Building Left Behind, no
It was probably one of the over-privileged, possibly the Prince of Darkness himself, tossing restlessly in bed late at night, who figured out how to unload twenty or so acres of devastated land that Hatcher was stuck with. What the center of the city needed was not a shopping mall but an athletic complex, not shoppers but athletes, and not professional athletes, either, but high school athletes, teenagers who could be portrayed in a public relations campaign as deserving kids as well as the economic saviors of downtown Portsmouth. Grammar school students were enlisted in the fight for the shopping mall back in 1980, but now high school students are now being enlisted in the campaign for the athletic complex. The argument is that “for the sake of the kids,” we need a massive athletic complex. “Gentlemen,” the high school football coach Skip Hickman told the the City Council at the July 16 meeting, “We’ve drug on for nine weeks. We need your help. Do it tonight, because it’s the right thing to do for the kids.” How has the city ever been able to get away with neglecting the kids for as long as it has? No wonder drug abuse has drug on as long as it has, and that teen pregnancies and academic underachievement have plagued our teenagers. Those of us who never had to play in Spartan Stadium or the baseball stadium should thank our lucky stars. That Howard Harcha IV played in both stadiums and went on to achieve the success he has is incredible. He deserves a mural on the flood wall. That a stadium that had been good enough for an NFL franchise should be good enough for a high school team, or that what was good enough for player-coach Jim Thorpe should be good enough for Skip Hickman – these are the arguments of nay sayers, like those evil Councilmen back in 1980, who stood in the way of the shopping mall. The scandal of letting kids play in Spartan Stadium has to stop. We have to turn the neighborhood that Hatcher had turned into a haven for prostitutes and drug dealers into a field of multimillion dollar athletic dreams. Ten million dollars is just the beginning, as anyone knows who wasn’t born yesterday.
But if you build a multimillion dollar athletic complex, will they come to watch high school football and basketball games? Will they in such numbers and often enough to revive the center of the city economically? Or is that just one of the pie-in-the-sky economic predictions Supt. of Schools Broughton has made. This woman apparently will say and do anything to expand her bureaucratic empire, never mind what it is going to cost taxpayers. To believe her, the athletic complex will transform
The athletic complex is not a Field of Dreams. It is a Field of Schemes, conceived in deceit and dedicated to the proposition that not only should Hatcher not have to pay a dime for his business mistakes but that he should be compensated “fairly” for them, to borrow Broughton’s term for how the property owners in the athletic complex area will be treated. According to school officials, Hatcher owns, about 70% to 80% of the less than hundred parcels of property in the proposed site of the complex. By my count, made on the
The best argument against the athletic complex, perhaps the only serious argument, is economic. The “kids” will be playing their games on untaxable fields and untaxable field houses that will cost the city millions in taxes to build and maintain. Not only are those facilities not going to make a profit, they are not even going to pay for themselves. The city already has an athletic complex – a historic football stadium with an adjoining practice field, a decent baseball stadium, and several Little League and softball fields, located near the river front, in an easily accessible area not far from downtown Portsmouth, an area where an upgraded athletic complex could be conveniently and more economically built, if a new or upgraded athletic complex was what the city really needed most. But of course a new athletic complex is not what the city needs most, not given the hidden costs associated with it.
"It Ain't Worth Anything"
Leave it to Marty Mohr to be the one to let the cat out of the bag. “It ain’t worth anything,” he said famously of the
One of the great benefits of high school athletics, in addition to the exercise it provides, is that they promote the competitive attitude in young people that makes them as adults willing to work hard and strive. Athletics help make the
I have heard that the only way the King’s
Always willing to advise wealthy widows on their wills and bequests, our local foundations have found benefactors willing to give millions to the new athletic complex. These millions are not outright gifts; they provide tax benefits for the donors. Foundations sometimes launder money that might otherwise end up in the form of taxes in public treasuries. Many wealthy people would rather leave it up to a foundation, rather than the government, to decide how their money will be spent. And who can blame them? But there are foundations and there are “foundations.” What we have in
Clayton Johnson is quoting as saying the athletic complex will attract families to
Broughton boasts that the city is successfully marketing the new athletic complex and new high school. You don’t judge the quality of school system by the look of its campus any more than you should judge a person by his or her clothes or automobile. It would be far better for the future of the city if