Monday, March 19, 2001

Tear down Firstar Center




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        Wreck the place. Don't bail out the debt-ridden Firstar Center. Flatten the joint.

        When crews demolish Cinergy Field to make way for the Reds' Great American Ball Park, have them keep moving east.

        The old arena, formerly The Crown, formerly Riverfront Coliseum, is worth more dead than alive.

        The center's largest creditor is an affiliate of Provident Bank. Carl Lindner owns the bank. He also owns the Reds.

        Now's the time for the white-haired financier to live up to his image as the city's favorite uncle. He should buy the arena. (His company has already made an offer of $31 million and change.) Then, wreck it.

        Transforming the arena's site into open space would give the Reds' new home room to breathe.

        Without the Firstar Center looming beyond its outfield fence, the ballpark would not be wedged into its space.

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        As it stands, this eyesore will crowd the Reds' new ballpark. It hinders innovative and aesthetically pleasing development on Cincinnati's riverfront.

        Plus, it's old, ugly and outmoded.

        Knock it down.

        With debts totaling close to $40 million, the center's owner filed for bankruptcy late last week (Friday story). The hope is to find a buyer for the arena.

[photo] The Firstar Center
(Enquirer photo)
| ZOOM |
Checkered past

        The Firstar Center/Crown/Coliseum has long been a white elephant with bad karma on the riverfront.

        The building is in its 26th year. Sure, the present owners spent $37 million to buy and remodel the place in 1997. And a swell remodeling job it was. But the money was spent on an old building.

        Even with the renovation, the arena can't hold top-drawer concerts, sporting events and political conventions. It's too small.

        So, level it.

        Cincinnati claims to be big on hometown pride. This city treasures places where special moments occur.

        Yet, the structure slated for demolition on the riverfront is Cinergy Field, not the Firstar Center.

        Cinergy Field is steeped in good memories. As Riverfront Stadium, it was the scene of the Bengals' Freezer Bowl and Pete Rose's hit that broke Ty Cobb's all-time career record.

        The stadium was home to the Big Red Machine. World Series pennants representing Reds victories in 1975, 1976 and 1990 flew from its flagpoles.

        The site of all those memories will someday be turned to dust.

        While Cinergy Field goes with more of a good riddance than a goodbye, the Firstar Center survives.

        The hat-box shaped building has never overcome the bad memories of its Riverfront Coliseum days. Ice melting during hockey games. An owner stealing utilities. The deaths of 11 concertgoers in a stampede before a Who concert.

Convention center combo

        The city should explore ways to build a new downtown arena.

        Combine it with an expanded convention center. Bridge the interstate to the West. Knock down the Regal Hotel to the east. Extend the convention center's footprint to the spot once reserved for a Nordstrom store.

        While a new arena is being built, events that would typically visit the Firstar Center could go to Cincinnati Gardens or the arenas at Xavier University and the University of Cincinnati.

        We'll survive.

        But, the Firstar Center must go.

        Wreck it.

        Now.

        Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at (513) 768-8379; fax 768-8340.
       

       



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