Sunday, June 1, 1997
Nothing will dislodge
Reds' riverside anchor


BY TIM SULLIVAN
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Marge Schott won't have Broadway Commons, and she can't get Riverfront West. She has said "no way" to The Wedge, though it worked wonders for Dorothy Hamill, and has shown no interest in fixing up Cinergy Field.

If there is any process to the Cincinnati Reds' search for a new ballpark site, it is the process of elimination. Schott has a rare skill for saying "No," and no knack for compromise or creativity. She belongs to the Hold-Breath-Until-Turning-Blue school of bargaining.

Schott has leverage she hasn't used, and rights she has failed to enforce. She has obtained public funding without actively seeking it, and responded to the windfall with whining. She has allowed the Bengals to gain the first shot at site selection, seat licensing and construction in Cincinnati's stadium boom, and consigned her historic ballclub to the back burner.

Schott is either engaged in some clandestine maneuver to move her team, or is squandering a sweetheart deal out of sheer obstinacy. You make the call.

The Reds' need for a new ballpark is no less acute than that of the Bengals'. Declining revenues have forced John Allen to trim one of baseball's largest payrolls to subsistence levels, and the diminished quality of the team's play will likely lead those revenues lower.

If she is to staunch the flow of red ink, Schott must make her farm system more fertile. She must depend more on inexpensive prospects and less on costly, past-prime retreads. And she must get her stadium project up to speed from its flat-footed start.

Jump-start the stadium project

There are several ways to accomplish this. One is to take the case to court, where Hamilton County would be hard-pressed to prove it had treated the Reds and Bengals equally, as their leases require. This course would likely free the Reds of their contractual commitment through 2010, and might mean a multi-million dollar settlement. There are at least two problems with this approach. One is that there's little point in finding a loophole in a lease if you have no other place to land. Another is if the Reds were to seek damages, they would effectively be suing their own customers.

Another course is to create a tangible alternative, as Mike Brown did in his transparent trip to Baltimore. This tactic invariably panics politicians, and inevitably enriches owners.

Major League Baseball, in part to protect its anti-trust exemption, has avoided the franchise free agency that has reduced the National Football League to an extortion racket. Yet several baseball owners - notably Jerry Reinsdorf of the Chicago White Sox and Houston's Drayton McLane - have used the threat of a move to gain major concessions. As a lifelong Cincinnatian with no direct descendants to consider, Marge Schott is a poor candidate to play carpetbagger. She has been reviled enough for one lifetime without the firestorm that would result from moving the Reds out of town.

Schott likely to get her way

Schott might move the team to Northern Kentucky or an adjoining Ohio county without being made out as another Art Modell, but that would require funding not already in place. If she is in haste to get a ballpark built, as confidants claim, the most promising place is still Cincinnati.

Broadway Commons is a waste of breath. Schott simply won't consider the site, and has not been moved by the guilt trip its advocates have tried to give her.

The Wedge might be more workable, but not if construction is contingent on Mike Brown's blessing and - or a lengthy rerouting of Fort Washington Way. Marge Schott expects to be treated as this town's top priority, and not its sporting stepchild. Her insistence on a riverfront site is motivated as much by pride as it is by profit.

In partnership with Carl Lindner, Cincinnati's master puppeteer, Schott probably has enough clout to get her way. The best guess here is Riverfront Coliseum gets razed instead of renovated.

This may not be the solution that makes the most sense for the most people. It is, however, where the process of elimination leads.

SULLIVAN ARCHIVE

Previous stories

REDS TO KENTUCKY? WHISPERS PERSIST May 31, 1997
NO DEAL WITH REDS SEEN BY JUNE 1 May 23, 1997
REDS EASE STANCE ON 'WEDGE' May 16, 1997
REDS MIGHT HAVE TO WAITMay 5, 1997
COSTS GOING UPMay 5, 1997
SCHOTT SAYS 'NO WAY' TO WEDGE April 12, 1997
SULLIVAN COLUMN April 12, 1997
CITY COULD PAY TO DELAY STADIUM April 10, 1997
BENGALS LEERY OF 'WEDGE' April 9, 1997

THE GREAT STADIUM DEBATE
BALLPARK DEBATE LINGERS ON April 6, 1997
NEIGHBORHOOD A BIG PART OF BALLPARK April 6, 1997
BALLPARK, FANS' HONEYMOON SHORT April 6, 1997
REDS HAVE HURDLES, HELP IN SITE HUNT April 6, 1997
KENTUCKY DESERVES REDS, TOOApril 6, 1997
BORGMAN CARTOON April 6, 1997

REDS PLAN SEAT LICENSING March 14, 1997
REDS TOLD BENGALS NOT PICKING SITE March 12, 1997
MAYOR SUPPORTS BROADWAY March 5, 1997
DESPITE FLOOD, REDS DON'T WAVER FROM RIVER March 5, 1997
BASEBALL ON MAIN PROPOSED Feb. 26, 1997
WEDGE SITE GETS BOOST FROM COUNTY Feb. 22, 1997
REDS, COUNTY RESUME STADIUM TALKS Feb. 19, 1997
ONLY CRIME IS NOT CONSIDERING BROADWAY Feb. 18, 1997
RIVER SITE OR LAWSUIT Feb. 15, 1997
REDS ARE READY TO PLAY HARDBALL Feb. 15, 1997
SCHOTT THREATENS TO MOVE IF REDS AREN'T ON RIVER Feb. 14, 1997