Quicksand for Baltimore Beach Volleyball at Rash Field

Over the past 13 years, beach volleyball has become a success in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, drawing young adults for clean, athletic fun in a beautiful setting. But as the city moves ahead with plans to replace the volleyball courts with a parking garage and rooftop lawn, typically unengaged millennials are fighting back.

Baltimore Beach Volleyball

Fun in the Baltimore sand. All images by Katie Howell Photography

Under Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Baltimore hasn’t poured a lot of public resources into sexy projects, focusing instead on keeping the city afloat and the books balanced. That’s why it was surprising when the visionary Inner Harbor 2 Plan emerged.

The plan’s headliner is an iconic bike/pedestrian bridge across the harbor. Other smaller complimentary projects, like adding stationary exercise bikes, food kiosks with outdoor seating, kayak ports, bike share, playgrounds, more beach, or a pool barge, would collectively make a big difference.

But there’s been pushback to a proposal to build a $40 million, 500-space parking garage, which would replace the volleyball courts where the Baltimore Beach Volleyball league has operated since 2001, as well as a memorial to the Pride of Baltimore, a sunken clipper ship.

The garage, which would have a rooftop lawn, appears to be the very first project out of the gate, causing the Inner Harbor 2 plan to get off to an unpopular start for many. Millennials, often criticized as a demographic for being politically absent, are expressing their unhappiness about losing a popular recreational area for a parking garage.

Volleyball supporters have written at least five letters to the Baltimore Sun over the past month advocating for the beach at Rash Field and noting its ability to draw young people. An unscientific poll from an earlier post I wrote in February received over 850 votes of 900 total for keeping beach volleyball.

Rash Field could use some improvements, but the many smaller projects in the Inner Harbor 2 plan could give the space the punch the city is looking for. Todd Webster, owner of Baltimore Beach Volleyball has been willing to help pitch in, if he could secure a multi-year lease for the league.

Baltimore Beach Volleyball

Beach volleyball is a social attraction for Baltimore

A parking garage isn’t what will make Rash Field and the Inner Harbor a better place. There are many cheaper ways to make Rash Field better without displacing Baltimore Beach Volleyball or the Pride of Baltimore memorial. Doing so would not only be in keeping with the city’s bent for fiscal responsibility, but it could also free up money for projects that are truly a game-changer for the Inner Harbor.


*crossposted on Greater Greater Washington and Sustainable Cities Collective


Connecting Baltimore’s Trails

Loch Raven Reservoir

Image: Loch Raven Reservoir

Part I: Could the Jones Falls Trail and the Torrey Brown Trail connect?

Part II:  Connecting the Gwynns Falls Trail to the BWI Trail/B&A Trail-(The Patapsco Valley link)

One of the goals of the update of Maryland’s Bicycle & Pedestrian Master Plan (originally adopted in 2002) is to connect missing pieces in the infrastructure, but specific projects are not on the table for discussion now. This article intends to get a head start when the time comes. It is time to build the Baltimore Region’s “Super Trail.”

First, regional trails should not come at the expense of a micro-network of bicycle connections in our communities. Trail links to schools, shopping centers, main streets, transit stops, downtowns, and employment centers are the most useful bicycle investments.

With that being said, thoughtfully planned regional trails can complement the above while also providing opportunities for trail tourism, economic development, commuting, recreation, and a regional amenity that helps us compete with other regions in the quality of life category. There are many aspirational comparisons by  Towson’s business and political leaders to Bethesda. One of Bethesda’s gems is the Capital Crescent Trail that weaves through Downtown Bethesda before connecting to the Potomac River, C&O towpath, and on to Georgetown.

Proposed here is a new trail connection between the *Jones Falls Trail and the **Torrey C. Brown (NCR Trail)/York County Heritage Trail and filling a missing link in the East Coast Greenway. There are several options, but we also have a general route in mind.

Jones Falls Trail extension large

Jones Falls Trail extension small

Here’s why we think it is a good idea:

  • A much longer connected trail (approximately 70 miles) is better than two shorter disconnected pieces
  • Added beautiful scenery and recreational amenities (Lake Roland, Loch Raven Reservoir)
  • Useful for commuting and transportation to and between: light rail stations, Towson University/Goucher College, downtown Towson, GBMC, Shepherd Pratt Hospital and residential areas
  • Connects a densely populated area with recreational amenities
  • Will generate economic development and hotel visits. (Overnight trail users could stay in Hunt Valley, Towson, or Downtown Baltimore hotels)
  • Light rail can complement the trail for those who do not want to do the “whole thing”

Trails are not free to build.  The Jones Falls Trail costs are approximately $850,000 per mile.  Accordingly, this project would cost between 15-20 million to construct. The author thinks it is worth it.

Well-designed and utilized urban/suburban trails are multi-purposed investments because they can boost community health and provide new transportation options. This trail could also attract serious bicycle tourism.  Museums, the zoo, festivals, sports events, fishing, water sports, fine dining, historic sites, shopping,  hotels, can all be incorporated into a trail visit package.  Maryland can see a multi-faceted return on its investment by thoughtfully constructing the missing piece.

JL (Full disclosure – the author lives next to the Jones Falls Trail)

*The Jones Falls Trail (six miles) is a relatively new trail extending from the Baltimore Visitors Center (Gwynns Falls Trail) to the Cylburn arboretum with an extension planned to Mt. Washington. The trail goes through urban and natural settings. The trail passes historic sites and monuments, the Maryland Zoo, Druid Hill Park, and views of  Jones Falls River along its path.

**The Torrey C. Brown Trail (20 miles)/York County Heritage Trail (also 20 Miles) connect York, Pennsylvania with Ashland, MD. The trail has beautiful rural scenery, is very popular, and provides a large economic boost to the communities along the trail, York, Pa and New Freedom, Pa in particular.

Photos of a few of the places adjacent to the proposed trail connection

MLB Attendance During “Rivalry Week”

In Part I, I argue that there should be more “rivalry” games in Major League Baseball based mostly geographic proximity. In Part II, I share some humorous baseball rivalry videos.  Here in Part III, I  pull attendance data from the one weekend of the baseball season that MLB does “allow” interleague geographic rivals and see if there is anything cooking.

I will start with a quote from a May 31 article by the Baltimore Orioles beat writer Dan Connolly“I’m not a big fan of this whole “regional rivalry” stuff, because I think it’s a creation and not a reality. Good teams battling for supremacy is what builds rivalries.

That said, there’s no question that the past four games between the Orioles and Nationals were energized.  The four games series (two in DC, two in Baltimore) drew 146,708, an average of 36,777. That particularly impressive when you factor in the games were played Monday through Thursday before most schools let out (although Monday was a holiday and a sellout at Nationals Park)”

Dan is right that two good teams going after each other can make a rivalry.  It is also true that attendance on weekends and opening day goes up regardless of the opponent.  My point is that adding a regional rivalry is like adding an extra really good topping on your pizza. It adds to the flavor whether the team is good or bad and games against bad teams are not going away.

So let’s jump into the data and see if there is anything to “rival” games between franchises in the same state or neighboring states.  Here’s how the analysis was done:

Attendance was gathered from all games May 27 through May 30. Many of these games featured matchups between teams from the same city, state, or neighboring states.  (Regional rival games) Another set of games was played between franchises much further apart geographically.  (Non-regional games)  The data was set up to compare regional rival games vs. non-regional rival games on the basis of how these games stacked up against their average home attendance.

Regional rivalry games beat their average home attendance by 18% on May 27 and 28 and 7.5% on May 29 and May 30. On the same set of days, non-regional games performed about average on May 27 and May 28 with their normal attendance and were 18.8% below average May 29 and May 30.  In summary, on the same set of days, regional rivals performed 18 to 25 percent better than their non-regional games.

Here is the data and the tables will show the findings.

Monday May 27 and Tuesday May 28

May 27 and 28

Wed May 29 and Thursday May 30

May 29 and 30

Here are some specific take- aways.

  • Collectively, regional rivals games performed much better against their home average than non-regional games whether teams were winners or not.
  • It is not about interleague, it is about geography.
  • Kansas City’s Kauffman stadium will be red when St. Louis plays. There will be bay bridge traffic for games in Oakland when they host the Giants. Mets Citi field fills up for the Yanks. St. Louis, San Francisco, and New York generally do well at home no matter who they play.
  • Cincinnati and Cleveland’s battle of Ohio does not make a super-hot ticket, but it helps.
  • Minnesota/ Milwaukee and even the cross town Chicago match up did not pack their parks. The Chi-town attendance data is not compelling of a strong rivalry  this year.
  • The Orioles/Nationals and Dodgers/Angels fill up the house.
  • Beach beats baseball in Florida no matter who is playing.  A major league team in Vermont would probably draw better than Tampa and Miami. One of these teams could move to Mexico City and I don’t think anyone will get off their beach towel.
  • There is no evidence of any interest in long distance interleague games between May 27 and May 30, 2013.

Baseball Rivalries in Action

Part II

In Part I, I argue that Major League Baseball (MLB) is stingy with the amount of rivalry games.  MLB fans get to play their crosstown or cross-state rivals a whopping 4 times out of 162 in 2013.  Other nearby rivals may not play at all (Baltimore and Philadelphia for example) This tamps down fan interest and game day economic benefit for cities

In Part II, we have a little fun to help drive the point home. Enjoy the videos. It helps to be a baseball fan to appreciate.

In Part III, attendance of interleague rivalry games in 2013 is examined. This is  the one stretch of the 162 game season in which MLB allows 4 rival city games.

Here are a few videos to enjoy! Which do you like best?

Baltimore vs Washington

Chicago vs Chicago

Chicago vs Chicago vs Green Bay

NY vs NY

NY Y vs NY M

Major League Baseball: Why Not More Rival City Games?

Camden Yards empty and full

Image sources: zachhample.mlblogs.com and the www.the700level.com

Part I, Part II, Part III

Major League Baseball (MLB) is scheduling too many boring match-ups. Worse, MLB is blowing the opportunity to make more money, improve fan interest, and increase the economic impact of the games for cities.

What is MLB doing wrong?  MLB is not scheduling enough games between interleague rival cities.  Whatever baseball city you are in and whichever team you care about, this impacts you.  As a Baltimore fan, east coaster, and supporter of local vendors, I don’t want the Orioles to play the likes of Oakland and Seattle when they could be playing Philadelphia and Washington. Conversely, the A’s and Mariner’s fans probably prefer games against San Francisco and the Dodgers.  MLB can give us both what we want. The 2013 Orioles play teams in states bordering the Pacific Ocean 28 times. The Orioles play Texas, Houston, Arizona, Colorado 18 times, while the Orioles do not play Philadelphia, the NY Mets and only play the Washington Nationals four times.

Cities have natural rivalries… Just google KC vs.St. Louis, Cleveland vs.  Pittsburgh, or Houston vs. Dallas……These rivalries take many forms and can be fun and intense.  Baltimore and DC’s newest rivalry is an annual “Food Truck Battle Royale.” When rival cities compete, more people show up and adrenaline rises.  MLB should schedule accordingly.

Rust belt battleImage Source: Bike League.org

Baltimore vs DC - FoodtrucksImage Source: InTheCapital

This is not just about stoking intraregional passions. It is about economics.  The National League Philadelphia Phillies were in Baltimore for a rare three game weekend series in June 2012. Baltimore’s downtown was awash in red.  Philly fans were coming out of restaurants, public transportation, water taxis, ice cream stands, museums, hotels, etc. The pleasant citizens of greater Philadelphia were spending money, and also building energy for a baseball rivalry that did not get renewed in 2013. The more frequent Oakland, Seattle, and other western franchise visits do not generate  this kind of economic impact.  “Regular” games between franchises thousands of miles apart with little cultural relevance don’t bring the fans, the energy, or the spending that games between teams in rival cities and closer proximity.


Phillies fans enjoying themselves in Baltimore Image source: Comeback City

Philly fans 4 - Baltimore

Baltimore’s Inner Harbor is packed when a team from the Bos/Wash corridor is in town, Image source: Comeback City

MLB stadiums and game day operations are often subsidized by the taxpaying public. Accordingly, cities should get the biggest economic benefit possible. Attendance and sales of everything from hotel bookings to ice cream cones skyrocket when the intraregional Yankees and Red Sox (or Phillies) visit Camden Yards. Retailers and vendors circle these weekends on the calendar.

Surely, MLB has done a study about maximizing revenues through scheduling. Frankly, it’s time to give it another look, because there are currently not enough exciting match-ups. A good scheduling fix for 2014 will add thousands to attendance while yielding millions in associated spending. Phillies and Nationals, I am hoping to see a little more of you in 2014.  Go O’s!

What do you think? Should MLB schedule more rival city games or has MLB got the scheduling mix right?




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