Diamonds, apparently, aren't forever

It seems that old age, with apologies to Dr. Ruth, is about as sexy as a Rotary Club poker night.Since yours truly, the ol’ Zekester, checks in at a relatively advanced 56 years of age, I’ve learned a thing or two over the long decades.One of those is in the eternal sinewy showdown matching Youth vs. Age, the callow side always kicks butt.Everybody, even those among of us who are nearing dotage, prefers shiny, new things.You don’t see old folks walking around with a swagger and a snarl like you do those young whippersnappers.Folks older than dirt don’t exactly drip narcissism as they stagger around on their walkers.Women in their 80s and in their right minds don’t wear bikinis to the beach.You don’t find old junk wrapped under the Christmas tree.Yes, we inhabit a disposable society. We want things to burn fast and burn bright and then dump the ashes before they soil our shoes.People and places all go down swinging once they’ve witnessed too many calendar pages dropping off like autumn leaves.Which brings me to 55-year-old FirstEnergy Stadium, a mere one year younger than yours truly.It has served its tenants, the Reading Phillies, quite well. The team draws nearly 500,000 fans a year to its frequently refurbished home on Centre Avenue.But that edifice, despite all the spit, polish and new toys that owner Craig Stein and GM Chuck Stein have adorned it with over the years, is more than two miles from downtown.Which is a bad thing these days.For years, everybody was fleeing Reading for the suburbs.And now the reverse is happening.Yep, life is indeed cyclical.Now everybody was to be down by the river, down by the River Schuylkill. And since FirstEnergy Stadium ain’t getting any younger — because we all know we can’t make a chicken bark and we can’t find that damn Fountain of Youth — the trendy thought is to build a new ballpark by the river.Mike Drago, the Reading Phillies beat writer for the Reading Eagle, eloquently pitched some sound reasons why there should be a new stadium erected by the river.In a nutshell, Drago wrote in his Sunday column that FirstEnergy Stadium isn’t as functional or fan-friendly as newer ballparks and its parking situation is tighter than my pants after a huge meal.And he pointed out that our sister cities are sporting gaudy new diamonds and poised to steal our lunch.And, thanks to the marketing genius of Chuck Domino, we are perpetually branded as Baseballtown. Nothing but the best for us. Consequently, a spanking new facility by the river undoubtedly would make a big splash. I guess our city fathers are now thinking that the Reading Phillies have ridden their hot horse into the ground. So why keep saddling up an ancient plow horse when you can be astride a magnificent stallion?Drago’s message evidently resonated with receptive ears.City officials now want to switch horses because a riverfront ballpark certainly could embellish the downtown entertainment development that has taken root and is sprouting quite nicely.Stein, however, is reluctant to move. No wonder. He has poured millions of his own money into the city-owned stadium, dramatically upgrading the facility from what once was a decaying dump.Now, like a proud homeowner, he’s understandably slow to pull the trigger on its demolition. Of course, if his ballpark is downtown and lots of fans are gulping pregame meals at city restaurants, fewer folks are chowing down at ballpark concession stands.That might give his bottom line more indigestion than gulping three or four ballpark hot dogs during one inning. Plus, Stein is preoccupied with building a $30 million stadium in Lehigh Valley that likely will house Philadelphia’s Triple-A franchise.Allentown and Lancaster, which already has a brand new ballpark, figure to siphon some of Reading’s fan base.So perhaps a gorgeous new ballpark nestled next to the Schuylkill would be a grand thing.But it’s not going to happen overnight. Somebody has to come up with revenue streams to help fund it. The state probably will kick in some of the money, and Mayor Tom McMahon said it could also be funded by bonds that would be repaid by the Phillies’ lease payments.McMahon says a new ballpark could cost up to $60 million and take up to 15 years in planning and construction time.I just hope in 15 years when I’m barely breathing at 71, I have enough energy still bubbling in my antiquated bones to hobble down by the river to root on the Reading Phillies.