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SBID announces new attraction

Date: 4/20/2010

April 21, 2010.

By Mike Briotta

PRIME Editor

SPRINGFIELD -- Moo-ve over, giant, painted fiberglass cows. Springfield will soon have its own way of drawing tourists downtown this summer.

Get ready for giant, painted fiberglass sneakers.

Taking a page from a highly successful art-meets-commerce trend popular in Connecticut, the Springfield Business Improvement District (SBID) announced last Thursday afternoon that it aims to promote the Springfield Basketball Hall of Fame with the city's first so-called "sneaker parade."

The sneaker statues are to be delivered in their raw form by June 1, then worked on by area artists until July 1, and finally unveiled in their finished, painted glory on Aug. 7, according to Donald Courtemanche, the group's executive director. The effort is intended to remind people that Springfield is the birthplace of basketball and home of the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Think you can design sneaker patterns better than Nike or Reebok? For local artists who want to create with color, and display their work on a larger-than-life "canvas," this is a rare opportunity to shine.

"These will be five-foot-tall basketball sneakers, 20 of them coming in on a flatbed from Nebraska," Courtemanche said. "It sounds like a silly event, but if we can get people coming to downtown Springfield, it's a slam dunk."

The director added that the idea was derived from similar cow parades south of the state line, in which various painted cow structures have been paraded, then later auctioned off to benefit charities.

The SBID is hopeful that a sneaker parade promoting the city and the Hall of Fame can someday become as world-famous as cow parades that brought global attention to a company headquartered in West Hartford, Conn. That town also hosted cow parades in 2003 and 2007.

According to the Web site of its parent company, CowParade Holdings, CowParade is the largest and most successful public art event in the world. Its events have been staged in more than 50 cities worldwide.

The company estimates that more than 100 million people around the world have seen one their famous cows, and more than $20 million has been raised through worldwide via the auction of the cow art pieces, which take place at the conclusion of each event.

Although the Springfield 2010 sneaker parade is expected to start on a much smaller scale, the average cow parade event offers 75-150 painted or otherwise decorated bovines, each of which is composed of a flame-retardant fiberglass body with steel rebar reinforcements inside. Each cow weighs approximately 125 pounds prior to being decorated by an artist.

The sneaker parade is not the only successful idea that the group is borrowing from the Hartford area, according to Courtemanche's speech at the SBID meeting last Thursday. Much like the Greater Hartford Arts Council, Springfield will soon have an Arts and Culture Coordinator, a job that will start at 20 hours per week.

Established in 1998, the SBID describes itself as the focal point of regional commerce for social, cultural, governmental, business and residential activity in a 26-block district of downtown Springfield. The SBID enhances city services like cleanliness, public safety and economic development.

Board Chairman Francis Cataldo Jr. said in a written statement that "the SBID is poised to completely revitalize itself, and its mission of making downtown Springfield a vibrant place to work, live, play and do business."

Courtemanche has been at the helm of the group for six months. He said one of his primary goals is to promote the economic development of the city.

"Luckily, I love economic development," the director said. "We're all about providing supplemental services. The BID is maybe not a driver, but a partner of economic development."

Mayor Domenic Sarno lauded the group's efforts in partnership with the city of Springfield. "People tell me, 'I come to work in Springfield, I get medical care in Springfield, and Springfield is a cultural center.' We're a wheel, we're the spokes, and Springfield is a hub," Sarno said. "We battle homelessness and other issues. I see all the surrounding neighborhoods as the blood flow of the city, and the heart is downtown. The two-ton elephant in the room is public safety."

To help combat the reputation of an unsafe downtown, the SBID has gradually installed numerous security cameras since 2008. That surveillance system was planned to entail approximately 40 cameras, capable of picking up license plates from a few hundred yards away. State funds helped defray the cost of those cameras, which have a 360-degree range of motion and are equipped with night-vision technology.

"Safety is the number one issue facing downtown right now," Courtemanche said. He concluded, "We're addressing that concern; the new security cameras are in place."

For more information, visit the group's Web site at: or contact the SBID by e-mail at: