Be Very Afraid; ‘Changes’ Coming To Arcadia Creek Festival Site
The headline was bad enough ("Kalamazoo development plans for 2020 include changes to Arcadia Creek Festival Place"), but then, this sentence in a WWMT news story about downtown development made me shake my head. And it should make you do the same.
"Through a partnership with the Kalamazoo Downtown Partnership, Kik said, the city planned to make changes to Arcadia Creek Festival Site."
No, this is not some crabby old guy resisting change. This is having lived here over thirty year, and knowing how things here can get messed up. Stay with me on this, because I may meander a little, but here's my reasons for being scared of this.
We used to have what was called the Water Street parking lot. And it doubled as a festival site. It was essentially blacktop and parking meters, that's it. Then, the city or whomever came into some money. I don't remember the source, but Arcadia Creek Festival Site was built, along with a project spiffing up the creek itself as it ran through downtown. The area just north of the Radisson was spiffed up, too, with the Kalamazoo Museum and KVCC's downtown campus.
(Full disclosure: My company owns Ribfest, but I am only speaking for myself and no one else.)
And, for a while, we came into a somewhat 'golden age' of summer festivals in Kalamazoo. And again, times change. There are now entertainment venues all over downtown. And I understand the cost and effort of mounting festivals of any kind isn't cheap. We've waved goodbye to Greekfest, IslandFest, and Taste of Kalamazoo, for those reasons and more. But it seems like there still is room for a venue like Arcadia Creek.
Now, it appears the need to change the festival site is, at least, in part, for the new construction across the street. Fair enough. I'd hate to think any of this is because of complaints of noise late at night, from a small but vocal - and wealthy - group of condo dwellers. Because what are we talking about here? Six to eight evenings a year, max? Really?
The city and their partners' track record on changing things, at least, for the better, is not great. Evidence what has happened to Bronson Park. Evidence the changes made to traffic patterns and removal of lanes and parking all over town, in the past decade.
But how about this. The idea of building a sports arena on Kalamazoo Avenue, where the old Jim Gilmore auto dealership was housed, has been floated around for years. Does the city really need another sports arena? Are more people going to start magically appearing at events than they have for the past half century. The reason Kalamazoo has a reputation of not supporting anything, is because it has been earned. And on a practical level, how are you going to schedule all the teams that would play in such a facility without constant conflicts. The K-Wings, Western men's and women's basketball, and hockey, too.
How about we take that 411 West Kalamazoo Avenue location, which the last time I looked, is a gravel parking lot, and turn that into a fine summer outdoor festival site. I'm sorry, but if Kalamazoo wants a crown jewel downtown, it's not a gravel parking lot at one of it's major intersections.
Again, I understand this is a much deeper problem than a festival site. Lots of agendas. But, new year, new decade, some new leadership taking over. Here's your chance.