Voters reject Broadway ballpark
Now county can finish negotiations for Main

Wednesday, November 4, 1998

The Cincinnati Enquirer

THE WINNER: Baseball on Main

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Hamilton County voters on Tuesday kept the Reds on the riverfront and put an end to the community's divisive, three-year debate about where the team's new ballpark should be.

With 100 percent of the vote in, voters rejected Issue 11 overwhelmingly, with 65% choosing the riverfront Baseball on Main site over Broadway Commons.

"Now it's the responsibility of political leaders and civic leaders and business leaders to make sure that we don't allow the momentum we have today to get frittered away," said County Commissioner Bob Bedinghaus, a proponent of the riverfront site.

Cincinnati City Councilman Todd Portune, who helped put the issue on the ballot, congratulated the pro-riverfront campaign on its win.

THE LOSER: Broadway Commons

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"People have had a say. That's what we wanted all along," he said. Cincinnati City Councilman Jim Tarbell, Broadway's biggest booster, was philosophical as he watched Issue 11's defeat.

"I don't think they voted for the Wedge," he said.

"They voted for the riverfront, and we're with them all the way."

Now the community can start talking about what the team's new riverfront ballpark will look like.

Proponents of the riverfront site expect their win will result in a speedy conclusion to formal lease negotiations between Hamilton County and the Reds.

"I expect no major obstacles or hurdles with the lease," Reds Managing Executive John Allen said. "Most of the items have been hammered out."

Mr. Allen and Mr. Bedinghaus said lease negotiations between the county and team haven't stopped since July 1, when the county and team announced a preliminary deal to build a new ballpark next to the Crown at the site known as Baseball on Main or the "Wedge." The county also has continued negotiating formal contracts with the architect and construction management firms hired to design and build the new riverfront ballpark.

"We're in the process of beginning the real design work," Mr. Bedinghaus said.

The tentative deal between the county and team calls for completing a new riverfront ballpark by 2002 or 2003.

Mr. Portune said he plans to make that work easier by proposing the city offer the same tax breaks and incentives to build on the riverfront that a majority had offered for Broadway.

Mr. Tarbell said he thinks the county and team eventually will realize that a new ballpark simply can't be built at the so-called Wedge site.

"When that time comes, Broadway will still be there," he said. But Mr. Allen said the team and county have had no indications that a stadium can't be built at the admittedly tight riverfront site.

After collecting nearly 45,000 signatures in less than a month, Broadway backers appeared to have all the momentum.

But before the polls were closed or the votes counted Tuesday, Cincinnati City Councilman Charlie Winburn offered a proposal to develop housing at Broadway and Reading Road.

While Broadway backers got the issue on the ballot, it was their rivals who shaped the campaign almost immediately.

Issue 11 asked Hamilton County voters to create a county charter requiring any new Reds ballpark be built at the Broadway site.

From the start, riverfront proponents questioned whether a county charter would change county government.

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