Rudy Panucci On Pop Culture

Loads of Questions Plus An Anniversary

The PopCulteer
August 26, 2022

The original plan for today’s PopCulteer was to just reprint an old post to commemorate an anniversary, and I’m still going to do that below, but something else came up.

Wednesday the city of Charleston and the Kanawha County Commission announced plans for a huge investment in an indoor sports complex to be built at the site of the now-closed Macy’s and one of the parking buildings adjacent to The Charleston Town Center.

At first glance this is a great idea. Sports tourism is a new industry, and it’s great to see our local governments invest in that rather than wasting tax money propping up a dying fossil fuel industry. The plans unveiled Wednesday are ambitious, very clever in places, and can definitely help the city in many ways.

Young people will have more stuff to do in town. Physical activity is good for the general health of the people in the area. Attracting people from out of town to come here and spend money is always a great idea. Creating so much more foot traffic to the Town Center Mall can only help them to lure more retailers to what is currently West Virginia’s fastest-growing ghost mall.

Best of all, no beer is involved and it’s not a freaking casino. It’s fantastic that, for once, we’re going to see a public investment in something that does not involve feeding one of the public’s addictions.

With that established, I think it’s a great idea, but I have a lot of questions.

First, how much of this planning was done behind closed doors before what appears to be a heavily-researched and elaborate spending program was sprung on the public? Were open meeting laws violated?

ZMM did a great job with the initial plans. Was the contract for this job put out to bid? (our images for this post are taken from their concept illustrations)

Has anybody figured out exactly who owns the Lee Street parking garage, part of which is slated to be demolished to build this new sports complex?

Just exactly how feasible is it to demolish only the top three floors of a five-story parking building? Wouldn’t that technically be “dismantling” those floors? Has anybody done a deep dive on the logistics of this? Might it not be quicker and more cost-efficient, not to mention safer, to take down the whole parking structure, and build it back up from scratch, with two floors of parking below the athletic center?

Why weren’t there any representatives of The Hull Group, the current owners of the Town Center Mall, on hand? Are they okay with this plan, or will they file numerous lawsuits to block this, like they’ve done with the demolition of the old Sears building?

It seems like, in addition to being generally difficult to work with, the Hull Group might have some legitimate concerns about losing five or six mall entrances and half their parking. Could their stubbornness result in this sports complex not having a direct mall entrance so that people can avail themselves to what’s left of the food court and the Starbucks? Is it possible that they’ll resist this project simply to keep the value of their property–and therefore their property taxes–depressed?

Likewise, is JC Penny on board with this. They’re going to lose access to some parking as well.

With all the Lee Street garage parking shifting over to the Quarrier Street garage (at least during the construction phase), will anything be done first to prevent that structure from collapsing?

It is well-known that the Charleston Town Center was built where the Triangle District, an historic Black neighborhood in Charleston, once stood. Once completed, will this new sports complex be open and available to Black kids and poor kids and underprivileged people, or are we spending tens of millions of dollars to build a tourist attraction that, when it’s not being used for tournaments will simply be a plaything for wealthy folks who live in South Hills or The East End?

Kanawha County Commissioner Ben Salango says that they plan is to sell memberships to allow locals to use this facility. Isn’t that dangerously close to what they do at country clubs? How expensive will these memberships be? Will there be programs in place to grant memberships to deserving young athletes whose families can’t afford to join?

What exactly is the projected time frame for this project? Dozens of cities are investing in building sports complexes, many of them within easy driving distance of Charleston. Is it going to be possible to get this sports complex built in time to be competitive with all the other cities who are making a play for a piece of the sports tourism pie?

Will the city and county reach out to work with the state on improving the roads into town? I know that things are progressing, slowly, around the Nitro-St. Albans bridge, which once completed will give us six to eight lanes on I-64 all the way to the Kentucky border, but what about our other two major interstates? What kind of committement can we pry loose from the WV DOH to maintain all the major roads into Charleston?

Who is going to run the finished facility?  It’s been said that the city and country will appoint a joint committee.  Isn’t that how we got the mess we currently have trying to figure out who owns the parking structures?

It seems like this idea has not exactly sprung forth in the most transparent manner. Going forward, now that the cat’s officially out of the bag, will public input really be seriously considered? Can the questions I’ve posed off the top of my head be answered? There’s a lot to ponder here.

I think this is a great idea, and could potentially be a major boon to the city of Charleston and the surrounding area. It’s forward thinking, attractive to young people and could potentially revitalize the Charleston Town Center Mall (if the owners are willing). The $80 million price tag seems like a sound investment in our future. Now it only has to pass the smell test.

Anniversary Day

I’ve written this post in advance because your PopCulteer and his bride have ventured Northward for a couple of days to observe our eighth wedding anniverary. In honor of that, and in an effort to make my life easier, I planned to re-post our wedding announcement, which originally ran here the day after we exchanged vows on stage at The Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago. I wound up cranking out that longish item above, but here’s a flash back to 2014…

Hey, y’know that top secret project I’ve been talking about all week?

Well, if all goes according to plan, by the time you read this, Melanie Larch and I will have become a married couple. And to think, it only took 24 years for us to tie the knot. With all our elder-care commitments fulfilled and no other obstacles in our path, we can finally be together.

The ceremony is to have taken place Tuesday morning on the Stage of the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago. We wanted a quiet ceremony in a special place, and that fit the bill perfectly. Every PopCult post that has been published since last week was written on Wednesday, August 20. That’s why the tense is all wonky.

If you’re wondering why we decided to get married in Chicago, there are many reasons. First of all, I hate cermonies. I just can’t stand the pomp and circumstance and other related BS that fuels the Wedding Industrial Complex. I just want to be with the woman I love. I don’t want to go through the Spanish Inquisition.

On top of that, Melanie and I didn’t feel right getting married in a state that does not allow all of our friends the same right. I know it’s inevitable that marriage equality will come to the Mountain State, but we didn’t want to wait any longer.

Add to that the moronic law passed a couple of years ago that coerces people, even people who have been together more than two decades, into undergoing religious and/or psychological counseling before they can tie the knot, and it was clear that, as far as getting married goes, West Virginia is not open for our business.

We were planning to go to Chicago anyway, and Melanie holds Steppenwolf in very high regard, so I suggested she ask if we could get married there. She did. And they said yes. And we said “I Do.”

We’re hoping that none of our friends feel slighted that we did this out of town. In the event that anyone reading this really feels the need for us to have a huge reception with tons of guests, please, feel free to throw one for us. We’ll be there… as long as we don’t have to do any planning or pay for it.

That is our PopCulteer for this week. Over on The AIR you can catch the remainder of Friday’s 24-hour marathon of Sydney’s Big Electric Cat until midnight. At midnight, the next marathon, of yours truly hosting Beatles Blast takes over for a day, and then a midnight Saturday night/Sunday morning, settle in for 24 hours of The Comedy Vault.

1 Comment

  1. Thomas H. Wheeler

    Well, two things. That Sports Complex sounds like a great idea — on paper. It also looks like it has the potential for being caught up in more legalistic red tape than anything i’ve seen in a very long time.

    And second — Happy Anniversary!

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