Sunday, August 20, 2000

Put spotlight on river

        Excuse me for saying so, because I love to throw stones at the Bengals as much as the next taxpayer, but this new Paul Brown Stadium looks great. Beautiful, actually. It's no better than we deserve. But pretty is as pretty does. Let's put it to work.

        Since we put so much store in sports around here, let's not drop the ball.

        The dramatic new landmark is bound to get lots of attention even if the Bengals don't win lots of games (Although that would be nice.) Next up to bat — just to absolutely wallow in jock metaphors — is the Great American Ball Park.

        Why don't we make sure people around the country remember us as more than a sports complex? Sports can be the lure, the shill, then we can show them what else we're made of.

A dark ribbon
               We are not a football town. We are not even a baseball town. We are a river town. It's what makes us different from Cleveland and Indianapolis. We should be sure to brag about that. Even at night.

        Maybe especially at night, when the Ohio River is a dark ribbon. The bridges, except for the incomparable Roebling Suspension Bridge, are nearly invisible at night. Some, of course, are better left unseen. But even the ugliest span could be gussied up with careful lighting. Not neon with some corporate sponsor's name. Just light.

        Think Christmas. Picture white lights brightening a barren park or an undistinguished house.

        It won't be easy. “My mother killed herself raising funds to light up the Suspension Bridge,” says Walter Langsam. Julia Langsam died in August 1984, just weeks before the lights were turned on for the first time.

        And Kentucky and Ohio would have to work together. The Commonwealth agreed to pay the electricity bill and people from both sides of the river raised about $300,000 for the Suspension Bridge installation.

        A collaborative is working on our second-oldest bridge. With $4 million from the Kentucky legislature, the 128-year-old L&N Bridge between Cincinnati and Newport will be converted into an elevated pathway for walkers, bikers and others. It's expected to be open by the summer of 2001.

        With lights.

        Two down and six to go.

Major league river
               The Riverfront Advisory Commission says investing $248 million for streets, parking, utilities, green spaces and a boardwalk with shops and entertainment near the river's edge could bring $600 million in private development. Let's suggest they buy some public light bulbs.

        Citizens for a Major League Future spent a million dollars on the pitch: “Dozens of cities would love to steal our major league image. They want it, but we've got it. Let's keep it.”

        After Hamilton County approved a half-cent-on-a-dollar county sales tax increase to finance new stadiums, a survey found that 48 percent of those who voted “Yes” did so to “keep Cincinnati a major league city.”

        The riverfront is the only major league asset we have that can't be duplicated. One that can't be stolen. Or purchased.

        You can't add on a river if you don't have one.

        There's no free agency for rivers. Nobody can threaten to move our river to another city when they don't like the accommodations, if you get my drift.

        It's ours.

        Now let's shine some more light on it.

        E-mail Laura at or call (513) 768-8393.


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