Thursday, May 10, 2001

Florence cautious on ballpark idea

Stadium would lure minor-league team

By Suzanne K. Yowler
Enquirer Contributor

        FLORENCE — City Council remains cautious, but interested, in building a stadium for a minor league baseball team.

        But the city wants more information and has hired a consultant.

        “We are in the research and evaluation stage,” City Coordinator Jeff Koenig said.

        Council is selecting a consultant to study the proposal and conduct market research.

        “The consultant will look at the market, investigate the team and league, help determine how much it will benefit the community and if the area can support such a facility,” Mr. Koenig said.

        Talk of bringing a Frontier League baseball team to the city started in August.

        Gary Enzweiler, an entrepreneur and Northern Kentucky native, owns a franchise to start a Frontier League team, and former Cincinnati Reds player Chris Sabo has expressed interest in managing the club.

        Mr. Enzweiler has told council he needs a decision by the end of the month.

Return on the money

        “I'm enthused when I think of the idea (of a minor league team in Florence), the crowds it would draw, the effect on local businesses. However, I can't in good faith to the citizens of Florence use taxpayer money to pay for the stadium,” Councilman Dale Stephens said.

        Mr. Koenig said he would not recommend the city pay for the entire stadium.

        One aspect he expects the consultant to explore is the involvement of other cities with minor leagues.

        “We want to make sure we get a return on our money,” Mr. Koenig said.

Paying the bill

        Mr. Enzweiler said the team could be ready for the 2002 baseball season, but Mayor Dianne Whalen thinks 2003 is more reasonable.

        How to pay for the 3,500- to 4,000-seat ballpark the team will need is one of the biggest concerns.

        According to Mr. Enzweiler, the construction costs will run about $5.5 million plus land acquisition.

        Ms. Whalen said one spot that has been identified is 25 acres at Interstate 75 and U.S. 42 where Frontier Fantasy is now.

        Ms. Whalen said the University of Cincinnati Economic Development Department is completing revisions to an economic impact study, which she hopes will be finished by a special meeting on the stadium May 23.

        “Council has identified a need for recreational opportunities,” Ms. Whalen said.

        “We have a full range of housing, shopping and restaurants. We want to provide places to go and things to do.”


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