Saturday, July 5, 2008

Bowling for Cleveland

A bright new future with swanky apartments and condominiums is finally coming to Cleveland. Census trackers get ready to type in 30,000 downtown dwellers instead of 10,000 in the coming decade. Developer Scott Wolstein is also working on a $500 million flats renovation project that may turn the east bank of the flats into the place to work, live, and play within the coming years. Over on Euclid and Chester Avenues, picture a baseball stadium and College Town living quarters on Cleveland State's campus. Add to this a newly-completed Detroit Shoreway project, and you have the makings of a good, ol' fashioned Cleveland comeback!

Despite the dismal economic climate, investors still seem willing to put their money towards revitalizing Cleveland. With a recession looming, many may back out for the time being. Some risky developers who stick around could encounter some political red flags along the way. Sad for these visionaries, and sad for us, considering our city's need to move forward and play a more active role in the "new economy."

Quick, when you think of political red flags, what three words which begin with Cuyahoga and end with Commissioners come to mind? If you answered Cuyahoga County Commissioners, you are correct. I would have also accepted Hagan, Dimora, and Jones, but I suspect there are more than three people pulling the strings in that office. When moving ahead on county improvements, our commissioners stall more often than my broken-down 1973 lime green Chevy Nova did in all of 1987.

Here's another one-liner to chew on. If you truly want to know the best way to spend way too much time on securing a location for Cleveland's medical mart, ask the Cuyahoga County Commissioners. Their sole purpose for existence is to exhaust your patience, and sometimes your tax dollars, in their quest to put Cleveland back on the road to recovery, only to stop just short of getting things off the ground. Sometimes they don't even want your multi-million dollar bid, even if you are the only public bidder on a building they themselves purchased with taxpayer money and did nothing with. I am referring to the eventual K & D Group's purchase of the vacant Ameritrust Building on East 9th and Euclid which the developer intends to create housing, offices, and a restaurant in. This developer had to bid twice, both times against itself, because the commissioners could not decipher what the better deal was: letting an eager developer invest in a building for the purpose of bringing potential dollars to Cleveland or letting the building sit vacant for another 30 years. Maybe someone at the commissioners office heard that asbestos is making a comeback.

Despite these red flags and enough waffling to put IHOP to shame, Cleveland is poised and ready to reinvent itself. Perhaps the most apparent change downtown in recent years is what is taking place on East 4th and Euclid. Almost overnight, venues have popped up like weeds in a rain-soaked forest. Over on 4th Street they have The House of Blues, a large walking terrace, retail shops, housing, and a healthy combination of fine dining and bowling at the Corner Alley.

Maybe it is time for the Cuyahoga County Commissioners to adopt the line, "If you build it, they will come," from the movie Field of Dreams as their new slogan. Cleveland is indeed on the right path to recovery, and perhaps more streets like East 4th will follow once the Euclid Corridor Project is completed. But how do we get people to drop everything they are doing in the suburbs and come to Cleveland? The answer is simple. Put Bowling for Dollars back on TV.

That's right, Bowling for Dollars. A game played by ordinary, hard-working folks who may just be willing to represent Cleveland by knocking down some pins on local TV, maybe even Sports Time Ohio.

Unlike the first couple of times Bowling for Dollars swept through Cleveland and took dozens of viewers hostage in the 1970s, this brand of Bowling for Dollars should be taped before a live audience at the Corner Alley on East 4th. It should also coincide with the completion of the Euclid Corridor Project.

To stay in sync with Cleveland wanting to develop sustainable neighborhoods, free of cars and congestion, contestants should be bused in from the burbs and surrounding neighborhoods via the Regional Transit Authority (aka the RTA). Potential winnings would be set according to the average price of gasoline in Cuyahoga County that day. In other words, for every pin a lucky bowler knocks down, he or she would get $4 by today's prices. Get two strikes in a row, win $80!

Now instead of hopping on that bus and heading home, contestants should be strongly encouraged (with coupons and rebates) to head down the Corridor and take in the sights, sounds, and smells of Euclid Avenue's seven great wonders (culturally rich neighborhoods) along the way. Like the Playhouse Square Theatre District around East 14th. If you haven't blown your 80 bucks by now, head down to 21st Street and grab a slice of pizza at the Rascal House. Or maybe you'll want to save your money for the end of the route by visiting a museum in University Circle, followed by a nice meal in Little Italy.

By the time you loop back towards East 4th, you'll be so exhausted you'll want nothing more than to get a room at the Old Arcade's Hyatt Regency Hotel for the night. Your 80 bucks are long gone by now, but you won't mind dipping into your own pockets because you are having so much fun in Cleveland. And you will be contributing to YOUR northeast Ohio economy!

Sometimes the answers to life's most complicated questions can only be found in something simple, like putting Bowling for Dollars back on TV. It sure beats waiting for our county commissioners.

p.s. ...this blog was not paid for, endorsed by, or subscribed to by any political party or collection of bowling aficionados. Just an ordinary Mike who wants to make some extra cash so he can buy a crisp, new tee shirt he's been eyeing at Daffy Dan's.

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