Thursday, October 05, 2000

Ballpark steps to the plate

Thanks, public, wish you were here

By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Groundbreaking Wednesday.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
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        It was a groundbreaking of a publicly funded stadium with no public. It took place in a hard-hat zone with no hard hats.

        At the symbolic start of construction of the $330 million Great American Ball Park, TV cameras rolled and politicians thanked the public for making it all possible, but there was no one from the public there to hear it.

        There was Gov. Bob Taft, Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, Reds owner Carl H. Lindner Jr., Johnny Bench, Marge Schott and more local politicians than you could shake a Louisville Slugger at.

        The public was excluded from the event for “safety reasons,” because it was held in a construction zone. But none of the approximately 100 people who showed up were given safety gear.

        Officials had a home plate to place in the exact spot it will rest in the new ballpark, and foul lines drawn in the mud.

        Reds chief financial officer John Allen said he was sorry there wasn't room for a public party to celebrate the event, but promised that there would be very public celebrations of the stadium in the future.

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        Mr. Allen said the baseball commissioner's presence had nothing to do with keeping the public out. Mr. Selig is scorned by many in town because he has steadfastly refused to reinstate Pete Rose to baseball so he could be eligible for the Hall of Fame.

        “There just wasn't space,” Mr. Allen said.

        Mr. Selig said he knows he's not the most popular guy in town, but said he was excited to be in Cincinnati.

        “I've been looking forward to this,” Mr. Selig said.

        Cincinnati Mayor Charlie Luken promised the city will work with Hamilton County officials to make sure the ballpark is finished on time.

        “What we are doing is realizing baseball is part and parcel of what makes the city great.”

        The new ballpark is scheduled to be ready for the 2003 baseball season. Cinergy Field will be torn down in phases while the Reds keep playing there.


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