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Big Plans in Little Sugar Land: Pro Baseball and Concerts Coming to the Brazos?

It’s a prominent national trend: sterile but affluent suburbs all over strip-mall and cul-de-sac America scramble to retro-fit with culture, fun, a municipal center. You know, one of them-there “downtown” thingies.

The Woodlands has already done so. Lisa Gray at the Chronicle wrote about the sylvan suburb’s charms in Zest over the weekend.

And as with all things The Woodlands, Sugar Land is envious. And they are doing something about it.

At tomorrow’s Sugar Land city council meeting, town leaders will discuss having an election this November some hope will give them the authority to green-light a “Cultural Entertainment District,” which sounds like a place Commie apparatchiks would have boogied down on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast in the Cold War days.

So too does the group that has been planning the C.E.D., a 24-person panel of Sugar Land’s Politburo commissars, sorry, politicians, called the “Visioning Task Force.” (Visioners include former Sugar Land mayor David Wallace, and Cyril Hosley, an ex-city councilman now serving as the Visioners’ Grand Vizier, which is not his official title but should be.)

At any rate, the nuts and bolts of this Fort Bend County Five Year Plan include a minor league baseball stadium, indoor concert venue, a festival site, a cultural arts venue/performing arts academy, a full-service hotel/convention center and other amenities.

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Best of all, they say it won’t cost Sugar Land taxpayers a dime, at least not via property taxes. They say they can raise the money through ticket and parking taxes at the venues and a two-cent boost in the hotel occupancy tax.

Minor league baseball -- hell, any outdoor pro baseball in the area at all -- is a smashing idea. Frisco, a Sugar Land-like Dallas suburb, is now home to the Texas Rangers’ AA affiliate, and the games are extremely well-attended, even with the multitude of competing sports dollar options in D-FW. In fact, Frisco has had the top attendance of all AA franchises the last three years running. Yeah, yeah, it’s hot there too, so spare us the crap about outdoor baseball not working here.

As for the other elements of the Sugar Land Great Leap Forward -- a festival site also seems a good idea, and that “a cultural arts venue/performing arts academy” is at least in keeping with that weird suburban Soviet motif.

But with the Meridian, the Verizon, Warehouse Live and soon the House of Blues all downtown, not to mention tonier arts places like Jones Hall and the Hobby Center, and both the Stafford Centre and Arena Theatre within ten miles of Sugar Land, does Greater Houston really need a brand-new, far-flung indoor concert venue? -– John Nova Lomax

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