Saturday, September 25, 1999

Brown: We may need Cinergy

He wants Astroturf to stay in case stadium is delayed

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Bengals President Mike Brown said Friday he's holding up the Reds' efforts to put natural turf in Cinergy Field in part because the football team may have to play at least one exhibition game there if Paul Brown Stadium isn't ready.

        “If that's the case, we want the best field we can have,” Mr. Brown said. “And we would rather have the Astroturf field, rather than the grass field, which for us would be a dirt field.”

        Mr. Brown said earlier this week the Bengals wouldn't approve the grass until the Reds resolve a conflict that has the team playing at home Aug. 19 — the same night the Bengals are to open Paul Brown Stadium. The Bengals fear a “parking nightmare” if both teams play that date.

        But an angry Hamilton County Commissioner Bob Bedinghaus said any assertion that the new stadium might not be ready is an attempt to confuse the issue.

        “I think that the team is feeling a little stung by public reaction to what I believe is an unreasonable position they've taken,” said Mr. Bedinghaus, who said he has talked to Mr. Brown and Reds Managing Executive John Allen to try to help resolve the issue.

        “What we're faced with here is an example of where the football team is unfortunately using what little leverage they have to force another issue,” Mr. Bedinghaus said.

        The Bengals' lease at Cinergy Field, which gives the team veto power over the turf change, is good until the club occupies the new stadium next summer. The new $404 million football stadium complex is due to be finished in August. The Reds' new $299 million riverfront ballpark won't be finished until 2003.

        Mr. Bedinghaus said when the Reds first approached county officials about installing grass for next season, the county said OK as long as the Reds pay for it and any new turf is designed to accommodate football “in the unlikely event” that the Bengals have to play preseason games at Cinergy.

        Mr. Bedinghaus said the Reds first proposed leaving artificial turf under the seats that are moved to transform the field for football. But the Bengals didn't like the idea of having a football field that was 90 percent grass and 10 percent artificial turf.

        So the Reds came back with a design that would include grass even under the seats, so that there would be an all-grass football field if necessary, Mr. Bedinghaus said.

        But Mr. Brown called the Reds' design “unproven.”

        “Once we know we're not going to play games there, fine,” he said. “But we don't know that yet.”

        Mr. Allen could not be reached to comment.

        Troy Blackburn, the Bengals' director of stadium development, said he thinks it's “probable” the new stadium will be ready on time. But catastrophes can happen, he said, such as July's crane collapse on the new Milwaukee baseball park that killed three workers, injured five others and destroyed a portion of the ballpark.

        Even if the new grass were proven to work for football, Mr. Blackburn stressed that both teams can't play in Cinergy Field on Aug. 19.

        Mr. Bedinghaus said it's no secret that “an awful lot of bad blood” has built up between the Reds and Bengals in the 30 years the teams have shared one stadium.

        “I would hope that with the commitment the community is making to both teams, they would try to work past these petty differences,” he said.


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