Tuesday, October 31, 2000

Mike Brown, take banner down

        While the city wrestles with the aesthetics of the ballpark logo, the equivalent of a Mail Pouch Tobacco sign hangs on the side of our football stadium.

        This community coughed up $450 million for Paul Brown Stadium, and one thing we got for our money is a beautiful facility. Architects have praised its sweeping gull wings and the varied surfaces of its outer walls.

        This is important to Mike Brown. He says so, and I believe him. He once told the Enquirer's John Erardi that he admires the aesthetics of football. “I can look out (at a stadium) before a game, and it's more than even what's happening (at the moment on the field.) To me, it's a thing of — I know this sounds silly — beauty. There's a certain grandness about it all.”

Cheesy and illegal
               Well, Mr. Brown, you should take a look at the grand view people get when they're looking at the east wing of the very expensive gull. A cheesy plastic banner.

        “That thing is huge” City Manager John Shirey said. “And I'm pretty sure it violates city code.” He asked William Langevin, director of the city's Department of Buildings and Inspections to check. “It overshadows the good looks of the stadium.”

        Always the gentleman, Mr. Shirey.

        Overshadows? How about just plain tasteless and ugly? Or how about heavy-handed and cheap?

        Next to an orange tiger is the message, “Tickets Now on Sale!” with the team's phone number and Internet address.

A snowball in heck
               “I wouldn't have a snowball's chance in heck of putting something like that downtown,” says Tom Norton, president of Norton Outdoor Advertising Inc. But if he could, he'd charge billboard clients $5,000 a month for the space. That's the going rate for a prime spot. What could be more prime than our billion-dollar riverfront?

        The Bengals get it free on an otherwise spectacular $450 million backdrop.

        Mr. Langevin did “look into” the matter and said Monday, “We are in the process of ordering that banner removed. There's been no city approval or permit.” No penalty. And he said the city probably would agree to a 30-day renewable permit.

        Vince Cicero, the Bengals' director of sales and marketing, says the team plans to leave it up through the season. “And maybe we'll put it up again next season. It depends on ticket sales.”

        Most of us would love to see the Bengals sell every available ticket so we could watch the game on TV. But they already have the changeable message board and the tri-vision board.

        What if Procter decided to put a two-story inflatable Pringles can in its front yard on Fifth Street? Or if Cinergy decided to dangle a banner on the side of its building? Or Cincinnati Bell. Or Fifth Third Bank.

        Pretty soon, we'd look like Dollywood.

        I hope Mr. Shirey and Mr. Langevin press on. Or maybe Mr. Brown might decide he doesn't care for the “beauty” of this marketing venture. Somebody needs to peel this bit of dreck off the landscape.

        Meanwhile, the city's Urban Design Review Board labors over the ballpark sign, trying to make sure it “complements the surroundings.” Funny. But not laughable.

        And I suppose I should apologize about the Mail Pouch crack. Considering that the chewing tobacco company at least bought the paint for the farmer's barn, the comparison is a little insulting to Mail Pouch.

        E-mail Laura at lpulfer@enquirer.com.


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