BY GEOFF HOBSON and LUCY MAY
The Cincinnati Enquirer
If Hamilton County and the Reds decide a new baseball stadium should go on Main Street under the so-called Wedge plan, Bengals President Mike Brown said Tuesday that he would prefer construction begin after the 1999 NFL season.
That will be his team's last season at Cinergy Field. Since the current Cinergy lease stipulates both the Reds and Bengals have to approve any changes to the stadium, the Bengals could veto construction.
''If that option goes forward while we're still playing at Cinergy, it could impinge on access, reduce parking and it could even reduce the number of seats,'' Mr. Brown said. ''It would make for an unattractive setting and arrangement.''
Mr. Brown also said there is an advantage to staggering construction of the stadiums.
''If you have two stadiums under construction at the same stage, it puts a premium on the labor market and drives up cost. There has to be a sequence,'' Mr. Brown said.
But he said no one has approached the Bengals with a ''Baseball on Main'' plan, so he isn't sure whether any construction outside the stadium could begin before 1999.
Meanwhile, the chief proponents of ''Baseball on Main'' say their stadium site idea could work better if it were moved about 50 feet to the southeast.
That shift would avoid having to reconstruct Fort Washington Way near Cinergy Field before building the new baseball stadium, said John Schneider, chairman of the Downtown Cincinnati Inc. (DCI) transportation committee, and Michael Schuster, a downtown architect.
''If time didn't matter and if everyone were willing to wait three years for Fort Washington Way to get done, it would be better to have it as far north as possible,'' said Mr. Schneider, whose First Valley Corp. owns and manages real estate, including downtown property. ''But I think this would be OK.''
But shifting the site also would eliminate access from Pete Rose Way to Main Street and from the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge to Main Street, Mr. Schuster said.
Ultimately, Fort Washington Way will still need to be reconstructed so that downtown can be better connected to the riverfront, Mr. Schneider and Mr. Schuster said.
The ''Baseball on Main'' plan has been dubbed ''The Wedge'' because it appears to squeeze a new stadium between Cinergy Field and Riverfront Coliseum.
But Mr. Schuster and Mr. Schneider said it's important to understand that Cinergy Field would be torn down eventually. So, once it was finished, the new stadium would be sitting between the Suspension Bridge and the Coliseum, not between Cinergy Field and the Coliseum.
Variations of the plan are among those that officials from Hamilton County and the Cincinnati Reds are discussing as they negotiate the details of a new ballpark.
No site has been announced, and no announcement is expected immediately. The choices boil down to Broadway Commons - a site at Reading Road and Broadway, a few blocks from Over-the-Rhine - and several sites on the riverfront, including variations of The Wedge.
County Commissioner Bob Bedinghaus said there are many options on the Wedge site.
''Where it ultimately goes is for the architects to decide. Our analysts tell us it can fit.''
He also said the county would have discussions with the Bengals on the existing lease.
''Mike Brown is also interested in seeing the whole project move forward,'' he said. ''If that's the way we choose to go, I don't see problems.''