Saturday, December 8, 2007

Capital Region Fans Suck

Wow, talk about getting to the point.

What is the deal with Capital Region folk? They have this chip on their shoulder that they don't have any of the big sports or nice stadiums, but when they have something that is good they lose interest.

I've heard this about stores, "we want Macy's to stock the nice stuff." Macy's complies, people don't buy the stuff, Macy's goes back to selling what it had been selling.

When you want something, you have to support it. Albany isn't a vibrant metropolis, it's a 8-4, Monday thru Friday city. Most people living in the burbs of this shrinking city never have a desire to head downtown. The sad thing is, Albany has done a great job revitalizing itself, IN SPITE of the fact that the suburbanites don't support this. Believe me, you won't get shot walking from the car to the TU. As dead as it is, you might not even see another person on your short walk.

The most interesting stat about Albany, a telling tale, is that over the last 20 years the Capital Region population has remained fairly steady while the urban sprawl has increased drastically. One the flip side, the city of Albany's population as dropped like a rock.

I'm guessing the spread out of the population has made it inconvenient for this work day based population to get to the arena. Unfortunately, arenas are designed to put fannies in the seats. When they don't, they stop selling tickets and the team leaves.

Albany does a great job over the summer with various festivals in Washington Park, at the Empire Plaza, and Live At Five at Corning Preserve. All of course free, on weekend days, and always well attended.

I've always defended people of this region. When they chased out the Albany-Colonie Yankees, a team filled perpetually with up and coming stars (Jeter, Williams, Rivera, Petite and many others), I said baseball is a sport that needs a quality stadium to draw the casual fan. Heritage Park was at best a decent high school field and not proper for this region.

Then came the Joe, Joseph L. Bruno Stadium, in Troy and baseball fans have come out every year for the last 5 years. Not only that, they have increased attendance yearly. Of course, you have a beautiful stadium, a team that has won 4 out of 5 years, and if you didn't show up you'd have no excuse.

What I can't understand is why at an arena as nice as the Times Union, with a quality hockey team that is run by an organization that lets the team play to win, cannot draw a decent crowd.

Arenas are arenas, nothing special about any of them. There is only so much you can do to a giant warehouse with a sports court in the middle of it. But the TU is legit pro arena, it seats close to 20,000, and you can fill it when Billy Joel comes, or Hanah Montana. So why can't you show up to watch a few hockey games a year? Maybe support your Albany Conquest as well.

It can't be the ticket prices, because they are fair. Nope it's not NHL, but it's not NHL prices. You can afford to take the family to a Rats game, but how many can take a family of 5 to an NHL game???

Sure the Devils sucked the life out of the River Rats, but Carolina is letting the Rats play, and the hockey is good. The team is winning. It's not a great offensive team but they are physical, and can play defense.

Why can Rochester draw 7000 a night, but Albany only 3000 on a good night. Rochester also regularly sells out it's AAA baseball games. And Rochester is just 1 hour from Buffalo with an NHL team and another AAA baseball team. I use Rochester as an example because it's very similar in size and location to larger cities as Albany is.

Bottom line, Albany-Schenectady-Troy if you don't support your teams you will lose them, and while I'm sure you all fantasize about pro teams and the big city...AHL hockey, NY-Penn League baseball, and arena football are all you are going to get, unless you want to take a 3 hour drive every time you want to watch a live sporting event.

So support your teams (or don't cry when they are gone)!!!!

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Monday, December 3, 2007

Finch-Pruyn Purchase 161,000 acres of Adirondack Biodiversity

I believe back in June 2007, the Nature Conservancy aqcuired the rights to the Finch Lands. The deal allows Finch Pruyn to use the land as a working forest for an additional 20 years which will hopefully keep a lot of people at the paper mill in Glens Falls happy.

This is both sadly and happily one of the last, and perhaps largest, contiguous parcels of private land in the forest preserve.

But as you can read below, 161,000 acres of biodiversity doesn't come without a cost. Lots of hungry mouths to feed including the tax man, the conservationist, the hunter, hiker, snowmobiler and the developer.

Nevertheless, having the Nature Conservancy try to figure out this mess puts me more at ease. Like ANWR, even if I never get to set foot on most of this land, it makes me all warm and fuzzy to know it's there and never going to have a Walmart, strip mall, or some over sized seasonal house built on it.

Well, I can wish about renewing the leases to the hunting clubs for 20 more years, then slowly bringing most the land into the forest preserve.

Conservancy weighs fate of 161,000 acres in Adirondacks

First published: Sunday, December 2, 2007
Albany Times Union

After driving endless numbers of internal roads and an hourlong fly-over in Tommy Helms's 30-year-old Cessna sea plane, what's most striking about the 161,000 acre Finch, Pruyn & Co. property in the Adirondacks is its vastness and continuity.

Or as biologist Michelle Brown of the Adirondack Chapter of the Nature Conservancy put it, the property's "intactness." Viewed in a global context, which we seldom think of for the Adirondacks, Brown says the Finch, Pruyn & Co. lands represent one of the last, best places on earth to conserve, protect and keep whole a significant temperate deciduous forest system.

What a stunning acquisition this is by the Nature Conservancy, still breathtaking to contemplate six months after it happened.

A meticulously maintained working forest in the pumping heart of the Adirondacks kept very private for 146 years, with 144 miles of river, 70 lakes and ponds, 80 mountains and and a ton of natural wonders only a few eyes have seen.

On very short notice, timber products giant Finch, Pruyn & Co. came calling and Adirondack Chapter executive director Mike Carr and his staff dropped an already full plate of land stewardship issues in the North Country to accommodate. They scrambled, borrowing $110 million from John Hancock Insurance and the Open Space Institute to seal the deal.

But now the madness begins. While an expensive clock driven by the interest on those loans is ticking, Carr has given himself a year to put together a complicated plan for the future of the property that takes into account myriad demands and desires from a broad range of stakeholders, and the Nature Conservancy's own mission statement.

"I'm not going to please everybody, probably nobody completely," the affable Carr said, as we were driving down a private road to a trail head that would take us in under a half-hour to a postcard view of Ok-Slip Falls.

In future generations, this little trail to the highest waterfall in the Adirondacks, and one of the tallest in the state, will become as popular as the trek from Adirondack Loj to Marcy dam -- if it becomes part of the Adirondack forest preserve, or becomes public through an easement. It probably will, because it is very high on the wish list of environmental groups looking to steer about half of the 161,000 acres into the Forever Wild forest preserve.

That means the state will have to make a significant purchase here. But at the same time, local governments, which have a veto if Environmental Protection Fund money is used, will have their demands, primarily centering on economic development opportunities. A snowmobile trail linking the towns from Long Lake to Schroon Lake is a high priority for them. The hunting and fishing clubs with a combined membership of 3,500 that lease 131,000 of the acres now would like a voice in the future as well, even though they may have to settle for smaller leases than they have now, and then there is Michelle Brown's voice, most compelling of all.

The Nature Conservancy, after all, is about protecting nature, biological diversity. Not about guaranteeing public access, or honoring hunting leases, or developing recreational opportunities. Mike Carr is certainly aware of all these other hands out, and wants to satisfy as many as he can, but not at the expense of the fragile ecosystems, the unusual, threatened and endangered.

The Adirondack Chapter has launched a hurry-up $35 million fundraising effort over this property, which tells me in the end they hope to keep a hunk of it. Interestingly, in short order they've raised more than $5 million, most of it coming in far from Long Lake. There are those in distant places who may never see the Adirondacks who understand the global importance of this piece of property.

So Mike and his staff and board will get a chance to decide how best to divvy it up to give it the wisest protection and use, while getting out from under a groaning debt load and a $1 million a year in taxes.

I do not pretend to have an inside track on Mike's thinking. Besides, I think his evolving plan is very fluid at the moment. But here are my impressions of where we'll be when the dust settles on this phenomenal legacy for our grandchildren.

Much of the Finch, Pruyn & Co. property will continue as a working forest. Done right, it works.

Mike Carr is a big believer in the dynamic that currently exists, that's kept the Finch, Pruyn & Co. properties beautifully maintained and conserved. In all likelihood, sexy items like the Essex Chain lakes, the Hudson Gorge, OK-Slip Falls, and maybe even Boreas Ponds will go into the forest preserve, as environmentalists wish. But there will be a place for the hunting and fishing clubs, which have proved to be excellent stewards and represent a strong Adirondack tradition.

There will be a connected snowmobile trail along existing logging roads, and probably named lakes and ponds that Tommy Helms and the other seaplaners can fly into, to keep that old tradition alive too.

Through the manipulation of transferable development rights, struggling towns and hamlets surrounded by forest preserve will get buildable property for growth.

In other words, my hunch is Mike Carr will come up with a complex mish-mash of public and private interests interlocked through easements, leases and fee purchases. A new paradigm for land acquisition in the Adirondacks.

This arrangement will require unprecedented cooperation and respect among parties, and pose a huge challenge for enforcement and all new headaches for the DEC.

But you can be sure the delicate ferns and mosses growing around rare limestone outcroppings, around Pickwacket Pond and up in the higher elevations, around Squaw Brook valley, and elsewhere, will never be safer.

Albany, N.Y.: - Print Story

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