And there used to be a ballpark
Where the field was warm and green.
And the people played their crazy game
With a joy I'd never seen.
And the air was such a wonder
From the hot-dogs and the beer.
Yes, there used to be a ballpark right here.
- Frank Sinatra “There Used To Be A Ballpark”
Back in 1973 Joe Raposo wrote a song for Frank Sinatra about the passing of old baseball fields. It was popular to play the song as clips of the demolition of old standards like the Polo Grounds, Ebbets Field, Connie Mack Stadium, and Forbes Field in Pittsburgh were being shown.
In time, replacement stadiums in Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, and St. Louis also came crashing down, this time from implosion, not a giant wrecking ball.
These days, the lyrics from that Sinatra classic could be revised to include shopping malls, as the days of going to one giant indoor facility to find a dishwasher at Sears or clothes at Penney’s or shoes at Payless are fading away. Giant shopping malls like Century III in West Mifflin are now ghost towns, their anchor stores long closed.
Kmart in Monroeville, Mt. Pleasant, and DuBois among others are now empty. Sears, which has been around since 1893 and was once the country’s largest retailers, stated recently that, after losing $2 billion in 2016 and selling its Craftsman tool brand, there is “substantial doubt” it would be able to keep its stores open much longer.
There are persistent rumors that Payless Shoes will likely file a Chapter 11 bankruptcy by the end of March and could close most of, if not all of, its outlets. Malls around the United States are becoming unsightly, unoccupied, white elephants.
People are now shopping in their bathrobes, as online outlets such as Amazon allow consumers to buy anything and just about everything and search for the most competitive prices. The mom and pop hardware and grocery stores have long vanished, and Circuit City, Radio Shack, Borders, and Brookstone have followed in their wake.
Just as small downtowns like Ambridge, Greensburg, Washington, and Beaver Falls lost their customers to the shopping centers and malls, the stores under one giant roof couldn’t adapt to the technology that changed the way we shop.
Yes, there used to be a shopping mall right here.
Don’t worry though. We will still spend money. In fact, shopping online makes it easier to spend more than we need to because it’s done with a card and not cash. One other fact will stand the test of time.
People will spend too much.