No Stadium in Chinatown, 2000
In the spring of 2000, a shock hit residents of Philadelphia’s Chinatown when the city announced Chinatown as the intended site for a new $600+ million baseball stadium. The project was announced without any communication to the Chinatown community (nor would any communication be granted during the course of the struggle). In sharp contrast, the city held meetings with two other neighborhoods that had earlier been considered as possible stadium sites.
In response, the Chinatown community came together to fight the project – a fight the likes of which hadn’t been seen since the mid-’70s. After three decades of city construction that threatened to suffocate Chinatown residents were unanimous in their beliefs that the stadium deal must not go through. Youth and elders, progressives and conservatives, immigrant and U.S.-born organized and fought using tactics ranging all the way up to a Chinatown-wide general strike. AAU joined this broad array of forces in the struggle.
During the next seven months, the Chinatown stadium struggle became a national issue for Asian American communities struggling to save their ethnic enclaves. Community protests of the exorbitant price tag weighed against other city responsibilities drew national attention to Philadelphia’s skewed priorities. After months of marches and protests, media campaigns and organizing, the City announced the whole stadium mess would move to South Philly.
Youth organizers continued to organize against the stadium deal, testifying at the City Council meetings to oppose public financing. In doing so, the youth broadened the fight beyond Chinatown, to fundamentally ask how we as a city are to set our priorities.
While the stadium no longer looms over Chinatown, much work lies ahead to preserve this 130-year-old community.