Cincinnati City Council is poised today to approve a $20 million incentive package to lure the Reds to the Broadway Commons ballpark site, despite hearing that the team and Hamilton County aren't even talking about the site.
Hamilton County Commissioner Bob Bedinghaus told council's Community Development Committee that county officials have talked to the Reds about Broadway Commons.
"It would be accurate to say those discussions went nowhere," Mr. Bedinghaus said.
He stressed that the county and team are closing in on a deal for a new riverfront ballpark just east of The Crown at a site known as Baseball on Main or "The Wedge."
Even so, Councilman Todd Portune, the architect of the incentives package, said he was not disheartened. Mr. Portune said the committee's passage of the measures Tuesday was significant.
"I think it's an important step for the city to take to firm up our resolve in seeking to construct a baseball stadium at Broadway Commons," he said. "I think it's evident from the conversation with Commissioner Bedinghaus that we still have a lot of work ahead of us."
Councilman Phil Heimlich was the only committee member present to vote against the incentives.
"This is not a vote against Broadway Commons," he said. "I think some deference has to be given to the fact that the county is paying for the stadiums."
But Councilwoman Bobbie Sterne, a Broadway backer who chairs the committee, said the sales tax increase being used by the county to fund stadium construction is paid by Cincinnati residents, too.
"The county includes us. We are all paying for these particular sports facilities," she said.
Council's incentives package includes: the abatement of city taxes on the site for as many as 30 years; a 10-year extension to council's previous commitment that could save the county $14 million; waiver of $1 million worth of city fees; and a $5 million streetscaping and infrastructure improvement plan.
The package was endorsed then by five council members -- enough to pass it. They were: Mr. Portune, Mrs. Sterne, Mayor Roxanne Qualls, Councilman Tyrone Yates and Councilwoman Jeanette Cissell.
Mr. Portune urged county officials to discuss the city's offer with the Reds, saying he didn't want a repeat of the hostile city-county negotiations that had threatened to derail the Bengals' stadium.
"We're trying to get in on the front end with this as opposed to the back end," he said. "But it's important to emphasize that the city is and will be a partner in this decision-making process."
With the Bengals' deal, the city controlled 12.5 acres of land in the heart of the football stadium site and refused to transfer it until county officials agreed to a riverfront development pact. City officials also own land needed to build a ballpark on the Wedge site. Council has not yet threatened to withhold that land.
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