BY LUCY MAY
The Cincinnati Enquirer
The Cincinnati Reds' decision to give up on prime riverfront real estate west of the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge shows that the county and team are moving closer to a new stadium deal, the county's chief negotiator said Tuesday.
"I've said consistently that we're making progress, and that's part of making progress," Hamilton County Administrator David Krings said.
The Reds have always insisted their new ballpark must be on the riverfront, and Managing Executive John Allen's abandonment of the site just west of the bridge Monday leaves just one riverfront alternative: the site between Cinergy Field and Riverfront Coliseum known as "The Wedge" or "Baseball on Main."
But Mr. Krings declined to rule out the possibility of razing Cinergy Field and building a baseball-only stadium on that site, just east of the suspension bridge.
In addition, a site at Broadway and Reading Road known as Broadway Commons is still part of the negotiations between the county and team, Mr. Krings said.
"No options other than the west-of-the-bridge site have been taken off the table," Mr. Krings said.
Hamilton County Commission President Bob Bedinghaus, however, said there are two general options under discussion for a new Reds ballpark: Broadway Commons and The Wedge.
The idea of razing Cinergy Field is not an option, he said. "The fatal flaw with that is where would the Reds play for the two to 2ï seasons it would take to complete the project?" Mr. Bedinghaus said.
If the idea is for the community to reap economic benefits from the many baseball fans who attend games each year, it would be "counterproductive" to move the team out of the city while a stadium is being built on the Cinergy site, he said.
John Schneider, a downtown developer who has promoted The Wedge site as the only way to keep the Reds on the river, said a model that he and architect Michael Schuster unveiled last week showed that a ballpark wouldn't fit just west of the suspension bridge.
Proponents of The Wedge site are "90 percent of the way there now," he said, because the discussion of the site no longer centers on whether it will work. "The discussion now is how difficult it will be and how long it will take," Mr. Schneider said.
But restaurant owner Jim Tarbell, the most vocal proponent of the Broadway Commons site, said Mr. Allen's statement Monday was good news for Baseball on Broadway.
"This puts the emphasis now on a choice between The Wedge and Broadway Commons," he said.
While Mr. Tarbell concedes that pressure is mounting to put the Reds' home between the suspension bridge and the Coliseum, he argues that Broadway Commons is the better choice because a stadium could be built there faster and cheaper.
A tireless promoter for Broadway, Mr. Tarbell said Tuesday that the Baseball on Broadway Committee has begun a new campaign to sell "season tickets" for a stadium at the site. In a week's time, 200 people have pledged $100 toward season tickets at a stadium on Broadway Commons, Mr. Tarbell said.
The money is being held in escrow and would be returned if the county doesn't pick the Broadway site, he said.
The group hopes to get 5,000 new season ticket holders to show the Reds and county how much support there is for the site, Mr. Tarbell said.
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