Savannah nightlife, and no arena in sight


Saturday was a work day for us, and in fact I had to go back in to work that evening. I got the call about 10 p.m., went out to the site, and got back sometime after 1 a.m.

As I drove back to the hotel in downtown, I was amazed at the numbers of people still out on the streets in the wee hours. Mostly young, some middle-aged. So I decided to park the car and take a late night walk.

You need to know that Savannah is not a huge city -- less than 300,000 people in the metro area. I was in Montreal a couple of months ago, another city with a bustling street life, mostly the result of high population density -- a million people in a few square miles.

On my walk, there were lines outside night clubs -- as some clubgoers left, others were admitted to keep under the fire marshal's limit. Groups of young people stood around on the sidewalk and in the city market district's plaza. Hot dog vendors on the street had a steady line of customers.

With all this activity, there must be a 20,000 seat arena nearby!

Well, there is an arena, built in the '60s and ugly in the style of government buildings of that era. At 9,600 seats it's about the size of Tulsa's downtown arena. The Civic Center also has a 2,500 seat theatre which appears to be busier than Oklahoma City's Ford Center. But nothing was happening at the arena that night, so why the crowds?

Savannah has a promenade along the Savannah River, in front of the old cotton warehouses, now filled with restaurants, bars, and souvenir stands, but that's not where the crowds were. They were along Broughton Street, in the City Market district, and along Bay Street, well away from the river.

Even tonight, there's been a steady flow of people through the internet cafe (Boba, in the City Market district).

So what was the attraction in Savannah? My guess is that people came because they knew lots of other people would be there.

Isn't this what young Tulsans are really after when they talk about entertainment options? Not sitting for hours in an arena listening to a concert, but going from club to cafe, mixing and mingling. So how did Savannah bootstrap that process? Building an arena -- even if we pick the ideal location -- by itself won't create that kind of excitement. We need to understand the other elements at work in cities that have the qualities we're after.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on October 20, 2003 4:45 PM.

What happened to all the discussion? was the previous entry in this blog.

Broughton Street is the next entry in this blog.

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