Cinergy Field not so awful for right price

The Cincinnati Enquirer

The reflex is to resist Cinergy Field. America is already inundated with advertising, and at first blush you think public buildings should be spared whenever possible.

Your second thought is more cynical. Before we get accustomed to its next name, Riverfront Stadium will likely be leveled. If some corporation wants to commit a significant pile of cash to rechristen a condemned ballpark, perhaps we should encourage its folly. Perhaps we should just take the money and run.

It is not that we love tradition lessbut that we hate taxes more. Riverfront Stadium has a proud history and all that, but there is still debt to service and bills to pay. If the Cinergy honchos can lighten the load of John Q. Public, more (electric) power to them.

Aesthetic concerns should not always be sacrificed in the name of commerce, but neither should sentiment always outweigh sense. Certain venerable structures ought to be above corporate sponsorship - the Parthenon, the Pyramids, the Louvre, Yankee Stadium - but that list should be drawn with discernment.

The University of Cincinnati's Nippert Stadium can be considered hallowed ground because it honors the memory of Jimmy Nippert, who died as a result of injuries suffered on the site in a 1923 football game against Miami.

Riverfront Stadium does not deserve such reverence. It is a concrete bowl without character; a success of function rather than form. Considerable sports history has been made on its AstroTurf, but few odes have been inspired by its architecture. When it is gone, it is not going to be missed.

Universities do it

Personally, I would have preferred that the place be renamed for Paul Brown or John McSherry, but there is no money in such a move and there are other ways to honor these men.

Some of the proceeds from the Cinergy contract could be set aside for statues of the Bengals founder and the fallen umpire. Cinergy might even want to consider underwriting that project independently, as a gesture of good faith and a means of blunting opposition. (There's no advertising like a selfless deed, so long as everyone hears about it.)

However crass a company's motivation, though, fees for naming rights amount to found money for a municipality. The concept is credited to Thomas J. Gola, a Philadelphia controller who in 1970 proposed taking bids for the right to name what would become Veterans Stadium. Though universities have been naming buildings after big donors for centuries, Gola's idea was initially deemed too radical. It has since become common practice in the funding of sports facilities.

San Francisco's Candlestick Park will be known as 3Com Park through the year 2000 because of a $3.9 million contract with a computer networking company. RCA is paying $10 million over 10 years for the privilege of putting its corporate logo on the former Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis.

This money has enabled the Marion County Improvement Board to build a spiffy new Triple-A ballpark without raising taxes.

''There was some opposition at first,'' said Heidi Mallin, public relations manager for the RCA Dome. ''But a lot of the discontent that people felt here was relieved when they knew what (the money) was going to.''

Hey, it could be worse

Aspiring snobs sneer at the Value City Arena under construction at Ohio State, and perhaps a more dignified name might have been negotiated. Yet the Schottenstein family has contributed $12.5 million to the project on the condition that they name the place after their chain of discount department stores.

What fund-raiser in his right mind could object to such a stipulation in the face of so much money?

Similarly, Riverfront Stadium should be called pretty much what the highest bidder prefers, so long as there's no obscenity, vulgarity or reference to Marge Schott. For the right price, Procter & Gamble could call it Pampers Park. Or the Bounce Bowl. What's in a name, anyway?

Given time, Cinergy Field may grow on us, though Cinergy Stadium seems the better choice. It's more alliterative. It has more synergy.

Tim Sullivan is an Enquirer columnist.

Published Aug. 28, 1996.