I considered titling this Against Tourists. It would have been more inflammatory. Plus, it would have been reminiscent of Against Heresies.
Having been a tourist on many occasions myself, though, I do not want to issue a blanket condemnation of traveling. It’s the tourism industry that I’m after…mostly.
As much as I would like to think that I was more a good guest than a gawker in the neighborhoods and towns that I’ve traipsed through, I have no doubt that to the eyes of the locals I was obviously the latter—another obnoxious, rubbernecking outsider.
Once a year, the bad guests descend on Canton. Roads are blocked all over town. A few years ago, a friend of ours woke up to a camper parked on the sidewalk outside her duplex. The rolling domicile remained there for days. No one bothered to ask if it was cool for them to live in her parking space.
The same duplex’s second floor became our first home after my wife and I were married in 2013. Being a block and half from “the action” was tantamount to being trapped in our own home. We stocked up on beer and snacks. I refused to leave the house.
What was “the action?”
The annual Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival and accompanying Hall of Fame Parade, of course! Which is either the most exciting or most grueling ten days of the year, depending on your perspective.
I have no doubt that many enjoy the festivities.
I hate the festivities.
Regardless of what one’s opinion might be regarding the HOF Festival, one thing that virtually no local wants is more of it. So, naturally that is exactly what the city plans on doing.
By more, I mean turning the Hall of Fame into something called the Hall of Fame Village—a kind a hybrid amusement park and retirement destination for NFL players. This way the party can never end and we can be plagued with tourists all year round. That is, assuming that the endeavor is successful in drawing any tourists. As for the idea that NFL players will want to park their wagon in the middle of a tourist trap to be leered at as part of the scenery….don’t count on it.
As with all such projects, it will involve the bulldozing of low-income housing. Already it’s claimed the little league fields near Stadium Park, replacing them with yet another patch of black tar. I can only hope that come time for the Festival, a few people will opt to park there and not in front of the locals’ homes.
Despite widespread opposition, the business community (a portion of it, anyway) have the city government’s hands tied. So much for “by the people, for the people.”
Aside from all of this being an enormous gamble that is likely to drive the city deeper into debt (or even bankruptcy), it is also a classic example of why the invisible truncheon of the market can’t be trusted to bet on the right horse. The remarkable lack of imagination of the mercantilist class on display here is par for the course.
The one tourist trap we’ve got has decided it’s overdue to unhinge its jaw and start swallowing our city whole. The message is clear to the neighborhoods on the chopping block: “You are undesirable. We have chosen the passers-through-with-deep-pockets over you.”
Yes, the NFL was born here. So were the O’Jays. The O’Jays get half an avenue in a part of town that scares suburbanites. The NFL gets the whole friggin town.
I would have loved a statue of Eddie Levert. Guess what we got instead?
The multi-billion dollar leviathan (which had the nerve to call itself a “non-profit” until 2015) is of course not buying the town. No, a vanishingly small group have decided to offer Canton’s collective head on a platter to an organization that hasn’t done jack for its mother city—an organization, lest we forget, in the middle of the biggest public relations crisis of its existence.
Whatever your opinions on the sport, it is impossible to deny that public perception of the league is tanking. My friends who are ardent Browns fans feel caught between a team whose prospects look positive for the first time in eons and an organization that sends young men through the meat grinder with nearly as much abandon as the Department of Defense. So long as money comes out on the other side, the human cost is deemed negligible.
Let’s say it takes the better part of a decade to actually finish this. Let’s say the NFL goes down like the Hindenburg in that time frame. What then?
There is mall in our corner of the city. Or at least, there was a mall. Now there is one department store inside an empty, rotting husk. Will Hall of Fame Village be another urban desert: pigeons standing in for vultures and plastic shopping bags in place of tumbleweeds?
This project is already displacing people who have done nothing to the business community except be poor and in the wrong place. Those people will be herded to other low-income neighborhoods, possibly in the Southeast quarter (a food desert), making it easier to demarcate for the tourists which parts are the “bad parts” of town.
Many of the business owners pushing for this are themselves “tourists” of a sort. They are suburbanites who think they know what’s good for actual residents because they spend a whopping forty hours a week amongst the unwashed masses.
What we need is something like The Cleveland Model. But corporate media, and even our regional NPR affiliate, seem to have little interest in reporting on creative solutions to urban blight.
Maybe we can halt this thing. Maybe we should be doomsday prepping.
Either way, it’s time the peasants started a “Love Train” to dig our way out of the manure.
Maybe we should dump it on the mayor’s lawn.