Chuck and I got on the subject of baseball, the waterfront and the Pipeyard.
“The guy from Pittsburgh was for real. Actually, he asked me ‘how many of those condos do you have down there?’ (Referring to the Spitzer homes at Harborwalk) None. ‘Well, if I was you, I’d have about 10. He said $160,000 is a steal. If that was in Pittsburgh or anywhere else, those are half a million dollar condos. He said if I was you I’d have about 10 about now.
“We don’t realize it. He told me that people in Pittsburgh drive to Maryland to be on their boats every weekend. He said we don’t have enough dockage here. Behind the Journal, he envisioned digging all that out and putting a marina down there. And people would come. People would come from Pittsburgh just to sit on their boats, just for the weekend. He said ‘You guys just don’t know what you have here.’ He wanted that whole area.
“They say our stadium is the right thing. It really is. (And) I don’t know how Avon’s going to do it. I really don’t know how. After all my involvement out there and talking to people in the different leagues…it’s independent baseball. It’s not affiliated (with MLB). And those guys are out to make a buck. And they’re going to make a buck no matter what. And if the city gets hurt, the city gets hurt. I will say (former Mayor Craig) Foltin was not going to let himself get into debt $5 million over a baseball stadium. Every one we went to, if you had 600-700 people in the stands… They’re putting $9 million out there in the baseball stadium.
“We’ve got Cleveland State coming out here. We have summer baseball. We’ve got the high school kids coming out there. And it’s debt-free. It really is. We did it with the recycle money. I know a bunch of people bitched and moaned and groaned…there’s only so many playgrounds we can put out there. We have’em in every park. So he took 2 years allocations and put it in there. What people don’t realize, when they were out there bad-mouthing it, US Steel invested $250,000. US Steel. What are you telling US Steel?! They thought it was worthy enough. I went to US Steel there, I was there that trip. The one thing I did like about my involvement, is what I got to see.
We went to Pittsburgh, and met with the high-ranking US Steel officials. All they wanted to talk about was baseball. All morning long, all they talked about was Pittsburgh Pirates, Cleveland Indians. What they found was, in their state, communities look favorably on a corporation that gives back to a community. They put $250,000 back into our community. Lorain National Bank floated an interest-free $50,000 loan, so that we could pay that off. That’s two corporations that put money into it, and we’ve got people out there saying… It’s because of that $175,000, those figures that you see…yea, OK, so we did. So we did do it. Nobody said we didn’t. You’ve got Cleveland State playin’ in here, and the Cuyahoga County commissioners are still pissed because they’re (CSU) here in Lorain County, to the point that they’re talking about redoing old League Park to get’em back. Because that’s a black eye on them.
“When their coach came out, he came to me, he comes into my office and says, ‘Well, what are you doing out there?’ I said, Coach, we’re a ways from there, we don’t have much time. He said, ‘There’s no place in northern Ohio for Division-1 baseball. That field, I’ve seen it, I know what you’re doing. You guys can make it a nice complex.’ This is what the coach told me. He came up from Louisville. So I said ‘Foltin, he wants to meet with us.’ So we bring him up there, we talk, and he says, ‘Well, what about next spring?’ I said, There’s no way we’re gonna get it up for next spring. And the coach says, ’Well, what if we buy sod and I give you my baseball team to put it in?’
“How can we say no? It’s free labor now. So his baseball team sodded it. They put all the sod in. You saw it when it was done. Things started snowballing, I’d have never thought that they’d have been opening up April 3rd. Never thought. There’s absolutely no way, Coach, forget it, it’s not happenin’. We can’t get it done. This was October! He’s in my office begging! I said No, Coach, it’s just not gonna happen. And I’ll be a son-of-a-bitch, THAT got DONE, and it got done on a trip in December. He’s here begging in October and we’re, in December, begging US Steel for money. And you know what? They bought US lunch!
So, here they are, the highest ranking officials in US Steel, and all they wanted to do was talk baseball. We were in there all morning, and they said, we’ve got work to do. We’re gonna buy you guys lunch, and we could talk all afternoon, but we’ve gotta get back to work. Fact is, when we left, the Rooney family said, ‘We could’ve got more. We underestimated what they were willing to give; we could’ve got more.’
“But it’s amazing, how people perceive things differently outside of Lorain, and how we perceive ourselves. We have to change our image. We have to change our image, and it’s part of this plate fee, it’s part of this…I know, I’m not going to pay it, I work in Lorain, it’s not going to affect me, and it’s going to be a bitter pill for people to swallow.” I told him what it’s going to cost my wife and I, and he agreed, “It’s gonna hurt. But who’s gonna do it? We can’t wait for Betty Sutton to bring it in.”