Championship City

Jeffrey Barg's picture
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The following post will likely result in the revocation of my Philadelphia residency.

It's heretical to say, especially on a day when the city is on fire (not literally; okay, mostly not literally) with excitement. But the city planner in me almost wishes the Phillies hadn't won last night.

Of course I wanted them to win the World Series. Twenty-five years is a long time for any city-let alone a four-sport city-to wait for a championship, and it's definitely Philadelphia's time. I'm thrilled to pieces they pulled it out.

But looking purely at the economic benefits of being in the World Series: Winning sports teams are a windfall for cities. (How would teams get cities to buy them new stadiums if they weren't?) With all the tourists and fans coming to town, a World Series run is estimated to generate up to $20 million for a regional economy-and that doesn't even count all the people going out to bars and restaurants to watch the game, and buying merchandise, as a boon to local retailers.

So would it have killed them to drag the thing out to seven games?

Like I said, 25 years is a long time to wait. We probably could have held out another couple days.

The rain helped. Game Five had to be stretched out over two days, which the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors' Bureau estimated would add another $1 to $3 million to the local economy. Bob and Barbara's, the dive-y local watering hole where I chose to watch Philadelphia claim its birthright, was jumping for two nights' worth of Game Five, whereas a week earlier, the bartender said , the place was empty.

Even the visiting Tampa Bay Rays couldn't find an extra night's hotel rooms in town. Thanks to a concurrent World Series and American College of Chest Physicians convention, every hotel room in the city was sold out. (Woo-hoo, chest physicians!) The Rays had to sleep in Delaware. (Suckers.)

So imagine if there were two more nights of pumping cash into our budget-constrained local economy.

Still, the electricity after last night's win was exhilarating. We went straight to Broad Street, where an estimated 100,000 fans swarmed to cheer, shout, hug, streak, bang pots and pans, climb onto bus shelters, wave American flags, wave Obama signs (Philly loves it some Obama), and yes, flip a car or two and break a couple windows.

There are plenty of pictures of the festivities all around the Internet. But as good as those are, they can't capture the camaraderie and civic spirit of complete strangers high-fiving each other, of an impromptu block party stretching for miles along the city's main artery, of police and cabbies alike joyously honking their horns incessantly as they drive up and down the streets.

Try though we might, that's the kind of city you can't plan any better.

Jeffrey Barg is an urban planner at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. He can be reached at jeffreybarg@gmail.com.

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