BY LUCY MAY
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Hamilton County Commission President Bob Bedinghaus said Thursday there's a better than 50-50 chance that the Cincinnati Reds' new home will be on the riverfront.
But wherever it goes, the decision of where to put the new ballpark will not be made by the public, Mr. Bedinghaus told an audience of more than 100 at the Mercantile Library downtown. It's a negotiation between the county and the team, he said.
"We've got something they want, and they've got something we want," he said. "We've got the $250 million, and they've got the bats, balls and bases."
The county, Mr. Bedinghaus said, won't force the Reds to take a location the team finds completely unacceptable.
"No team is going to agree to occupy a site that they don't truly believe works for them," he said.
Restaurant owner Jim Tarbell, the most vocal proponent for the inland stadium site commonly known as Broadway Commons, said the remarks were the first time he's heard such a clear explanation of the county's negotiations.
"It's clear that (Reds CEO) Marge Schott is calling the shots," Mr. Tarbell said. "It's all too telling and all too tragic about how things work here."
Mr. Bedinghaus disagreed with the interpretation.
"Well, they're an important player in it," he said of the Reds. But, he said, "if the Reds were directing this decision, I think it's pretty obvious they would be west of the (John A. Roebling Suspension) Bridge."
With last week's announcement of a lease agreement with the Cincinnati Bengals, the county's full attention has turned to reaching a stadium deal with the Reds.
For weeks, Mr. Bedinghaus has said the choice for a new Reds ballpark boils down to Broadway Commons, a site at Broadway and Reading Road, or a spot on the riverfront between Riverfront Coliseum and Cinergy Field known as or "The Wedge" or "Baseball on Main."
Mrs. Schott has firmly rejected Broadway Commons.
The Reds long insisted that the team's preferred site for a new ballpark was just west of the Suspension Bridge. But earlier this week, Reds Managing Executive John Allen told The Enquirer that the site was no longer a "viable option" because of the Bengals' new Paul Brown Stadium.
The $270 million football stadium will sit farther west on the central riverfront, roughly between Elm Street and Central Avenue, bordered to the south by Mehring Way and to the north by a curved Pete Rose Way.
A smaller ballpark just west of the Suspension Bridge would sit in its shadow, Mr. Allen said.
Mr. Bedinghaus spoke at the Mercantile Library during a joint presentation with Cincinnati Mayor Roxanne Qualls, a proponent of Broadway Commons.
At one point, a man in the audience asked why the county doesn't take a vote of fans at Cinergy Field to see where they think the Reds' new ballpark should be.
After Mr. Bedinghaus explained that the decision would not be made by the public, Ms. Qualls quickly asked for a show of hands on the two options - Broadway Commons and The Wedge. Broadway Commons won by at least a 3 to 1 ratio. Mr. Tarbell put the ratio at 5 to 1.
Mr. Tarbell said Mr. Bedinghaus' remarks will lead the many fans of Broadway Commons to redouble their efforts to promote the site.
"To me, it's a step forward any time you get clarity," he said.
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