OPINION — It’s nice when everybody wins.
Now, let’s just hope the St. George City Council doesn’t mess it up.
Thursday night the council will vote on a proposal that would see the city selling to the Washington County School District a 6-acre piece of property where the Elks baseball field and some horseshoe pits sit. The school district plans to use the property to build a new school to replace the aging East Elementary. Dixie State University would then purchase the old school site for a new building. And, the beloved Sunbowl would remain a piece of the St. George landscape.
It would be the best decision to come out of that council in years.
The kids could use a new school, DSU would gain a much-needed facility, and the Sunbowl will live yet another day.
We have long been a fan of the old structure.
It has a certain charm, and certainly a long history that some were ready to put on the shelf simply because it has a few years on it.
The thing is, people come to places like St. George for a bit of local charm, a bit of history.
You can find sterile, cookie-cutter facilities all across the nation as the truly unique aspects of a small town are chiseled away in the name of progress.
But, why should St. George, Utah, look like Anytown, U.S.A.?
It already has the requisite big-box stores, chain restaurants and such to match any suburban city or town in the country, why not hold onto a little charm?
Those who would tear down the old facility have said it’s an eyesore, not worth the effort, that there aren’t enough events there each year to make saving it worthwhile.
That’s a load of garbage.
The one place where people gather in St. George is the Sunbowl. They go there for the rodeo, they go there for the 4th of July festivities. If the city exercised a little ingenuity, it could be a regular go-to place.
You could put the art festival there instead of that sprawling piece of lawn where they have it now. You could hold concerts there, festivals, sporting events, expos of all sorts – from outdoors extravaganzas for the local rock climbers and golfers to whatever else a creative mind could imagine.
The problem with so many cities these days is that there is no focus, no place where everybody congregates. St. George is lucky to have a place like the Sunbowl that could host a wide variety of community events where everybody can get together, sit with their neighbors and family, and have some fun.
It was suggested that the annual rodeo should be shifted to the Washington County Fairgrounds, which is about as warm and inviting as a Fudgesicle. It’s cold, sterile, too far out of town. It’s not inviting, it has no charm. It’s a dirt field with a corralled-off area and some ugly buildings. I’ve been there for several events and, to be honest, all I could think about was getting out. It truly felt like Purgatory.
It’s true that the Sunbowl could use some renovation, but, we hear all this business about the so-called “Spirit of Dixie,” so let’s see just how much spirit there really is.
It’s also true that the facility has been severely underused over the last few years, but there is a reason for that: the city has simply not had anybody in a position to put together events residents would actually leave their homes to attend. It’s not a job that can, or should, be handed off to some guy in the city office.
One of the things I find striking about The Baja is that it has preserved its charismatic old buildings.
I walked down the same streets in San José del Cabo as John Steinbeck and his friend, Ed Ricketts, when they were collecting specimens in the estuary off the Sea of Cortes. I sat in the same cantina, in the same spot, as Ernest Hemingway, overlooking the ocean. I felt the history. It was overwhelming. I wouldn’t have had those experiences, however, if the cities decided that those buildings were too old and needed to be torn down.
The streets of San Felipé are old and, sometimes, broken, but the color and character of the place remains. You see it, feel it, breathe it, become a part of it, and it suddenly imparts a little bit of itself upon you and you carry it with you. I dare Wal-Mart or the Olive Garden to even try to compare with that.
But see, they have a respect for what has gone before, and an understanding that the oddly shaped buildings, despite their age, tell a story.
The Sunbowl tells a story.
You walk into the place and you can almost hear the crowds from a distant past roaring for a cowboy busting out of the chute on an angry bull. You can feel the presence of the athletes who have graced the field. You can feel the energy of a community that worked together to build the place.
You won’t get that at the fairgrounds, for sure.
Yeah, the Sunbowl is old.
That doesn’t mean it is useless, that it should be torn down in the name of “progress.”
I wasn’t born in St. George, and I certainly don’t plan to die in St. George, but I do know that there is a special feeling that always came over me any time I walked into the Sunbowl, a feeling of warmth, of charm, of history.
I am sure I am not the only one who has felt that way.
I read somewhere that it would be “fiscally irresponsible” to put money into renovating the facility.
I say it would be morally irresponsible not to put money into it. It’s a very important part of the city and its history touches everyone.
Save the Sunbowl.
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- Last dance for Dixie’s Round-up Rodeo and Sunbowl?
Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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