Helper's American Legion baseball field will not be used as a parking lot. Period.
That was the message from the city's mayor and council to car show promoter Mike James Thursday. James told the council that the annual event could overflow the city park next June and wanted the council to allow cars on the ballfield just in case.
James tried to persuade the council that since the baseball field is public property, it belongs to everybody, so citizens should be able to use it for other purposes. The show brings in visitors and tourists and is good for the local economy, he added.
There was no argument about the economic benefits, but, in the words of councilman Chris Pugliese, the community's investment in the ballpark represents "too much work to sacrifice." The show goes on in mid-June - the middle of baseball season - and the risk of putting tons of steel and rubber on the turf is asking too much.
Although the city owns the land and provides lighting, watering and mowing, much of the development has relied on support from the baseball community and donations.
The council expressed support for the car show and agreed to continue working with James and and others to work out some plan for alternative sites if the need should arise for overflow display parking.
Since there's no deadline for entries, it is difficult to say exactly how many classic cars will be coming to town from year to year, James said.
On the subject of tourism promotion, James suggested that the city could gain lasting attention by making and distributing souvenir mugs. The mugs could list all the city's main events, such as the art festival and Electric Light Parade in addition to the annual car show.