Wednesday, January 24, 2001

PB Stadium

Brown sees the light; color's next

        When I started making calls for this column, Paul Brown Stadium was in the dark, a dim blob on Cincinnati's nighttime skyline.

        Now, after two well-placed phone calls, the Bengals tell me they plan to light up their $459.2 million home by the end of February.

        Technology is amazing. Pressing buttons on a telephone can help throw some switches. On go the lights at night in the most expensive building ever paid for by Hamilton County's taxpayers.

        Next month, the stadium's swoosh of a canopy — the building's most recognizable feature — will float in the soft glow of electric light. And the stadium's price won't go up. Makes me proud to be a Cincinnatian.

        Civic pride is also what lighting up this stadium at night is all about.

Be proud

        Paul Brown Stadium is not going to go away. While its cost continues to make it a lightning rod for controversy — witness this week's issue over the Bengals holding back seats from potential season-ticket holders — the stadium is here to stay.

        We, the taxpayers of Hamilton County, are not going to get our money back. So, we might as well show off what 459.2 million of our tax dollars bought. Light up the stadium. Be proud.

        Pride starts with the stadium's prime tenant — the Bengals. Mike Brown should want to show off this place. The home of his football team is named after his legendary father.

        I called the Bengals' owner on Monday. No better time to ask about lighting the stadium than during Super Bowl week. That's when NFL pride runs deep.

        Mike Brown told me he was “proud of this beautiful stadium.” Decorative lighting for the canopy was planned initially. “But it became a cost casualty.” So, the stadium's profile has been dark at night — save for evening events — since the structure opened in August.

        He spoke of lighting the stadium's outline later. “But, for now, things are going wrong. We might do it when things are going right.”

        Don't know if any of us will live that long.

        My advice: Don't delay. Light up the place. Show some pride.

        And that's where we left the subject on Monday.

        On Tuesday, Troy Blackburn called. He's Mike's son-in-law and the team's director of business development.

Pride's priceless

        Troy called to say the swoosh will be lit at night late next month. The lights are already in place. And paid for.

        The lights, he said, will be white. No team colors.

        “This is a civic building. We don't want to be presumptuous with it.”

        Wrong move.

        Go for some color. Install a neon ring of Bengals orange around the swoosh. Install Bengals logos above the entrances. Dress up the place.

        It won't cost that much. For a price comparison, I called Cinergy spokesman Steve Brash. He put the total cost for the four neon “Cinergy Field” signs atop what is now the Reds' ballpark at $400,000. Each sign annually uses $390 worth of electricity to run from dusk to dawn.

        The Bengals can cover both amounts. They're hardly strapped for cash. They're a projected $19 million under the salary cap.

        Mike Brown has said he's proud of the stadium the county's taxpayers built for him. Now, he should show some team pride in return. Add some color to the stadium in February.

        We'll be watching.

       Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; fax 768-8340.


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