Monday, February 3, 1997
Stadium plans are a little
like 'Who's on first?'

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Confused yet about where the new stadiums may be going?

Me, too.

It seems as if every three days somebody has a recommendation for the Reds' and the Bengals' new homes.

I've heard so many so-called experts tell us where to put our stadiums - remember our taxes are paying for them - I'm not sure if it will be baseball on Broadway or Cyclones hockey at Music Hall.

I don't mind expert opinion. (And, yes, I'm happy to dole it out, too). But, I just wish it would take us somewhere.

I feel as if I'm riding up and down Main Street, up and down, up and down, with the world's gabbiest cabby. I want out.

Your move

Let's recap the stadium chess tournament so far:

March 19, 1996 - The stadium tax passes by a landslide. Marge hugs Mike. During this honeymoon period, everyone just assumes both new stadiums will be on the riverfront.

Summer 1996 - The Reds and Bengals arm-wrestle for dibs on who gets to hold the first groundbreaking ceremony. Both want it on the same prime riverside real estate.

Summer-Fall 1996 - Proponents of Broadway Commons hold parties, erect a fake entrance, send a million faxes and gain some unexpected momentum. Maybe this spot near Over-the-Rhine is the place to play ball.

Dec. 7, 1996 - Drawings of the new Bengals stadium are unveiled. In honor of the fruit warehouses it might replace, the new football stadium spreads out like a split cantaloupe. Space-age scoreboard is dubbed the ''George Jetson.'' Only in Cincinnati would a new design look like it escaped from a 35-year-old TV show.

Dec. 19, 1996 - High-paid consultants fly in with three scenarios. Two put both sports palaces on the river. Behind door No. 3: baseball on Broadway, football on the riverfront.

Jan. 7 - Hamilton County's planning commission favors one stadium on the river and the other at Broadway Commons. Who goes where? Take your pick.

Jan. 16 - High-paid consultants fly back into town with cost analysis. Consultants' findings: Different stadium options cost the same. Consultants' advice: The choice is up to you. Us. Whoever.

Jan. 24 - Broadway Commons wins, 5-1, in Cincinnati Planning Commission vote. It's baseball on Broadway. Bengals on the river.

Jan. 28 - Downtown Cincinnati Inc. (DCI) steps to the plate. Pointing to the fences like Babe Ruth on a good day, DCI sees a baseball stadium shoehorned between Fort Washington Way, Riverfront Coliseum and Cinergy Field.

All ears

Where does this leave us 11 months after we voted for the sales tax to build these things?

County Commissioner Bob Bedinghaus knows. As Hamilton County's point man on the new stadiums, he has heard all the recommendations. He looks at each idea ''individually and with equal importance.''

He views the two planning commissions' recommendations ''in the context that these are groups of people who give serious consideration to planning issues, day-in and day-out.''

But they don't have to negotiate with team owners - who are always threatening to take their marbles and go home. Nor do planners have to buy land that's suddenly become the town's most valuable plot of blacktop.

So he listens and takes his time.

''It's frustrating not to be moving dirt around,'' he admits. ''But this is the right way to go. The more time you spend at this stage of the process, the better your chance of making the project a success.''

So when will there be a decision, Bob?

The commissioner promises ''in a week or two, but no later than Valentine's Day'' the exact location of the Bengals' stadium will be announced.

Frankly, as I've said before, I hope they put the Reds on Broadway Commons. I like the site. I like saving some riverfront for something other than parking lots. And I like helping all of the city with my tax money. But at this point, I'll be happy just to have a decision.

Then wait till the discussion starts about moving the Coliseum up to the Convention Center. Or maybe farther north, along Plum Street. Or maybe ...

Cliff Radel's column appears in The Enquirer on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Available to speak to groups. Tips and comments most welcome. Call 768-8379 or fax at 768-8340.