HERE’S A CHALLENGE FOR THE Generation Xers who will be running Dallas in the next decades. White watching the 1.4 million athletes, delegations and tourists convene in Atlanta this month, indulge in a little long-term thinking.
Competition for the Olympics is fierce. To even get a foot in the door of the nominating committee, a city must prove it has the infrastructure, the financing and the facilities to handle the huge crowds. Atlanta has the arenas, the exhibition halls, the parks and the transportation systems. Today we don’t. But with the Dallas Plan in place, we do have the blueprint for how to achieve them. A few simple steps taken today would enable Dallas to establish itself as one of the world’s premier sites for sporting events.
But first, why even bring this up? It’s 40 years away, for goodness’ sake.
The simple answer is that some parts of the plan will take us 30 years to accomplish. The massive reconstruction of the Trinity River, and the attendant development of the southern sector along its banks-the overarching goals of the Dallas Plan-are not exactly short-term projects.
Another answer is we have opportunities today that may never come our way again.
The prime opportunity is Pinnacle Park, a giant site of approximately 1,200 acres along I-30 at Westmoreland that is the last great undeveloped piece of urban land in the world. The city of Dallas has missed countless chances to buy this land, and every day that passes reduces our chances of obtaining it for public use. Imagine in 18.57 if New York City had passed up the opportunity to claim the 843 acres of Central Park (843 acres; chump change!). Imagine in 1888 it Alex Sanger and other Dallas civic leaders hadn’t laid claim to 277 acres in our southeast sector for the State Fair.
Without Sanger’s foresight, the next generation of Dallas leaders under R.L. Thornton Jr. would never have been able to compete for the Texas Centennial celebration of 1936. We wouldn’t have had Fair Park as a place to hold the event.
Before the Centennial, Dallas was just another North Texas backwater town, on a par with competitors like Greenville and Sherman. San Antonio and Houston were the major cities of Texas-prosperous, well-established and well-known.
But Dallas had two things those older cities did not have: the fairgrounds and a business leadership with the zeal to raise $10 million in the middle of the Great Depression, Even though Dallas did not exist during the Revolution the Centennial was supposedly celebrating, that powerful combination of land and money enabled us to get the Centennial exhibition. The 6.3 million visitors (in 1936 alone! ) put Dallas on the map, transforming a podunk Southern town into a modern American metropolis.
Pinnacle Park cart be a new kind of Fair Park. with resorts, golf courses, entertainment complexes and sports venues. Tied into the development of the Trinity, it would create a vast permanent public space that would allow us to compete with any city anywhere.
As you watch the Olympics this month, you’ll hear a lot about how Atlanta got the games. How a lawyer named Billy Payne, rebuffed by the business leadership and ridiculed by the media, pressed ahead with his dream. How Atlanta finally rallied around, raising $200 million to make it happen. You’ll hear countless recitations of the economic effects the Olympics will have on Atlanta for decades to come.
White you’re seeing and reading all this, keep in mind that Atlanta stole our model. An event made our city 60 years ago. Nothing that has happened since can even begin to compare to its impact.
The year 2036 will mark both the 100th anniversary of that event-the Centennial Exhibition-and the 200th anniversary of the Texas Revolution. And also in 40 years, it will be time for the Summer Olympics to return to the center of the United States. With one action today-buying Pinnacle Park-and some forethought tomorrow, we could turn the history of our city into a piece of poetry.