Wednesday, August 22, 2001

MAC checks out Bengals' stadium

Neutral site sought for championship

By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Saturday's preseason game between the Bengals and Bills at Paul Brown Stadium will be an exhibition of sorts for the $450 million facility as well.

        Officials from the Mid-America Conference (MAC) will get the red-carpet treatment at Paul Brown Stadium, as Hamilton County commissioners and members of the Greater Cincinnati Sports Corp. try to persuade them to bring their conference championship football game to Cincinnati starting next year.

        The MAC, which has been shopping for a neutral site, has also had discussions with Columbus and Canton.

        “The task in front of us is to find the right neutral site for this championship game,” said Bob Gennarelli, MAC associate commissioner. “We don't know if that site exists right now.

        “So we'd be remiss if we didn't take a look and hear what (Cincinnati officials) have to say.”

        A council of university presidents will vote in February on a new site for the game.

        Leslie Spencer, director of events for the Cincinnati Sports Corp., said it's unclear how much economic impact the game would have in the city. It has drawn about 28,000 fans per game in each of its first four years.

        Ms. Spencer said the discussion will focus on the possibility of bringing the game to town for a minimum of five years — 2002 through 2007.

        “This is the first college championship event televised every year,” Ms. Spencer said, adding that the game is played in early December — a slow period for area hotels. “If we can bring in an event and boost the local economy, it would make sense.”

        But first local officials want to find out if the conference will demand any financial guarantees, and they would like a study of the game's economic impact.

        Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune, who was out of town Tuesday, has been pushing for the game to come here. Commissioners Tom Neyer and John Dowlin think it's a good idea, too.

        “That's exactly the kind of bonus use that we would hope to get from Paul Brown Stadium,” said Mr. Neyer.

        Teams that play in the MAC include Ohio University, Miami, Kent State, Western Michigan, Central Michigan, Toledo, Marshall, Ball State, Akron, Bowling Green, Eastern Michigan, Buffalo and Northern Illinois.

        The game was played at Marshall University each of its first four years, but will move to a different MAC university this year.


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