How to sell the event venue …

Amarillo downtown

My friend and I had a brief, but animated, discussion early this afternoon about the upcoming vote on Amarillo’s proposed multipurpose event venue.

We are on the same page. We both support what the city has proposed. We both think it will work wonders for the city’s economic well-being.

Three of the five members of our City Council disagree with us. They seem to want it to fail. They decided this week to put the issue to a citywide vote.

But as we visited today at her place of employment, I found myself getting worked up.

My fear is this: The voters are going to say “no” to the MPEV because they don’t understand what it can do; they are “afraid,” I told my friend, of trying something new, of thinking beyond their comfort zone, of looking at the immense possibilities that lie ahead.

My hope is this: Those who support the MPEV and believe in the city’s project — as I do — will organize a grassroots effort designed to lay out in detail how to market a sports and entertainment venue that can become the draw its supporters claim it will become.

The MPEV can be far more than a “ballpark.” Yes, we have this independent minor-league baseball team — now called the Thunderheads — playing in a rat hole of a stadium at the Tri-State Fairgrounds. MPEV critics keep reminding us that the Thunderheads cannot fill that place up, even with the generous ticket giveaways they offer.

Gosh, I wonder why. Oh yeah. The place stinks. It’s been patched up with the construction equivalent of Band-Aids. It really and truly needs to be torn down. With a gleaming new baseball venue in the heart of downtown Amarillo, I hope the razing of the dump formerly known as the “Dilla Villa” can — and will — reduce it to so much trash.

As for the MPEV, there needs to be some seriously creative marketing brought into play.

Can we not find some creativity in this community that is capable of putting together a 21st-century promotional campaign designed to attract events to a venue that its supporters hope will help reshape the downtown district?

I remain squarely committed to this venue. I’m not a marketing guy. I merely believe in thinking big. It’s time we thought bigger than we have in this city.

What’s more, let’s not be coy about what a defeat of the MPEV will mean to the rest of the downtown revival project. The downtown convention hotel won’t be built and without the hotel, there goes the need for the proposed parking garage.

Sure, Xcel Energy has begun work on its new office tower. The rest of it, the work that’s supposed to attract more people in search of something to do after hours? It’ll be gone.

And do we really and truly want to start over after we’ve gone so far already?

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