Friday, October 10, 1997
Reds not welcome in Clarksville

The Cincinnati Enquirer

TO: John Allen, Cincinnati Reds

FROM: Super-Secret Stadium Site Scout

RE: ''Explore our options within the proximity of Cincinnati.''

Did as you suggested and went to scout stadium sites beyond downtown. Snuck out of town early Thursday morning, heading north.

Landed in Clarksville, Ohio. The 200-year-old village - population 572 - sits by the border of Warren and Clinton counties. That's 50 minutes as the car flies from downtown.

Promising. Warm bodies. Plenty of cheap land. And part of a river even runs through it.

But money could be a problem.

And - oh yeah - another small glitch: We're not welcome.

''Build a new stadium here? I wouldn't go to it if they sent a limo to my house to pick me up,'' grumped Lester Marcum as he toted a box of fried chicken and a six-pack of beer to his car.

At first, the farmer had a smile on his face as he stepped from J&D's Corner Market, one of downtown Clarksville's four stores.

''Maybe we'd get a good restaurant out of a new stadium. There are only carry-out places here now.''

But Lester's smile soured the more he thought about the possibility of the Reds leaving downtown Cincinnati and building a stadium near his town.

''Jeez a'mighty,'' he groaned. ''I never went to Riverfront Stadium.

''And I'd never go to one out here because Major League Baseball stinks. They want taxpayers to pay for a new stadium. How much would that cost?''

About $250 million. Say $300 million tops. For now. Maybe. Knock wood.

''Cripes,'' was all he said.

Clarksville's entire village budget this year is $357,158.

Lester drove off - through the lone traffic light on Clarksville's Main Street. He was headed to his farm, where ''you'll see the prettiest spotted saddle horses in the state.''

Rural to suburban

Corn and soybeans used to be the main cash crops around Clarksville. Now, it's subdivisions.

''Old family farms are being broken up into one-acre lots,'' said Shannon Shumaker, owner of the saddle-filled Clarksville Tack Shop.

''The city's moving to the country.''

Carolyn Quinn has been Clarksville's postmaster for the last six years. Every year, the number of homes she delivers mail to increases by 5 percent. As the number of farms shrinks, the houses keep getting bigger and bigger.

''The Reds would feel at home building mansions here,'' she said.

But she's not too sure they could adjust to the pace of life in Clarksville.

''Everying moves slower in the country,'' she said. ''We have a decent quality of life here. I can't fathom what a stadium would do to Clarksville.''

One thing a stadium might do in Clarksville is flood the village with money - or people with money to spend - much like the Ohio River swamped Cincinnati last spring.

Each Reds game generates about $2 million in spending around the stadium. The Reds play 81 home games. Downtown, there's plenty of places to soak up the money.

''We don't have a big grocery store,'' said postmaster Quinn. ''No shopping center. No Wal-Mart.''

No Maisonette. No Waterfront. No Montgomery Inn.

''There's Pizza Palace down the block.''

And, across the street, there's Todd's Beer, Bait and Deli. That's where the chicken salad sandwiches arrive fresh daily and the hamburgers are microwaved, not grilled.

Phyllis Reeder, the owner, yawned as she leaned on her counter. Selling bait, beers and gas since 6 a.m., she works 13-hour days, six days a week.

The hours are killing her. She wants to sell. But she'll hold on if the Reds come.

She figures a new stadium will help widen the village's two-lane roads. Right now, many are so seldom traveled, their double-yellow lines are thick with fallen autumn leaves.

Phyllis looked out the deli's open door and imagined Main Street teaming with baseball fans.

She saw a traffic jam. And dollar signs.

Casting a glance over her shoulder, she eyed her coolers.

''Better stock up on more beer,'' she said. ''People get thirsty when they're stuck in traffic.''

Cliff Radel's column appears in The Enquirer Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Call 768-8379 or fax at 768-8340.