Friday, November 09, 2001

Bands win this battle - they march

County commissioners overrule stadium's ban on bands

By Cindy Kranz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Hamilton County commissioners put the “marching” back in marching band Thursday when they overturned a decision that banned four high school bands from performing at halftime Saturday at Paul Brown Stadium.

[photo] St. Xavier baritone tuba player Grady Owens practices at the school Thursday. Saturday, he'll be able to strut on the field at Paul Brown Stadium.
(Brandi Stafford photo)
| ZOOM |
        “We will allow the bands to participate,” Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune said during a late afternoon press conference that followed a deluge of criticism on Cincinnati's radio airwaves earlier in the day.

        Mr. Portune said “a written communication” will be sent to the Bengals instructing them “to permit and allow” the marching bands to perform on the field during the Division I high school football playoff games.

        Citing security and concerns about damage to the field, Bengals and county stadium personnel told Colerain, Elder, Princeton and St. Xavier athletic directors on Wednesday that marching bands would have to play in the stands.

        It was the second time this week that public outcry resulted in changes related to the two playoff games involving local teams. On Monday, the Ohio High School Athletic Association yielded to public pressure, changing the playoff site from Welcome Stadium in Dayton to Paul Brown Stadium.

        Saturday's doubleheader is expected to sell as many as 40,000 tickets. The record is 31,409 for a 1982 doubleheader at Ohio Stadium in Columbus (Moeller versus Massillon and Akron-St. Vincent versus Ironton-St. Mary).

    Sixteen foster families will watch Saturday's Ohio high school football playoffs from a suite in Paul Brown Stadium.
    Hamilton County will provide a suite for the doubleheader games between St. Xavier and Princeton and Colerain and Elder.
    The county's Department of Job and Family Services will select the foster families from within the participating school districts. The county will also provide food and soft drinks.
    “Saturday promises to be an exciting event for the community,” said County Administrator David Krings. “Hosting these foster families for the high school playoff games is one way to show our appreciation to them.”
        “We think this is in the best interest of the public,” Mr. Portune said about allowing the bands on the field. He and Commissioner John Dowlin conferred and made the decision, he said.

        Commissioner Tom Neyer could not be reached, Mr. Portune said.

        “I think a lot of people are gun-shy because the field was in such terrible shape last year,” Mr. Portune said. “The bottom line is: Anytime you walk on grass, you do some damage. The question is: What is reasonable in terms of use of the facility?”

        Parents of band members were happy with the decision because, they said, football and marching bands go hand in hand.

        “Relegating the band to the stands just isn't the same as having them marching on the field,” said Linda Moravec, whose daughter is a marching band member at Princeton. “Very similar to the football players, the band players have been practicing their songs for performances at the games for months also.”

        Joe Feldkamp, assistant stadium director employed by Hamilton County, said compaction is an issue with band members high-stepping up and down in the same spot, whereas football players move across the field.

        “Compaction is the worst thing for the long-term health of the plant.”

        Resodding the middle of the field would cost the county $80,000, and the NFL could fine the Bengals, as it did last year, if the field is not up to standards, he said.

        The no-marching decision created a public outcry, especially from parents who called radio shows and either called or e-mailed the Bengals and Hamilton County commissioners.

        Mr. Portune said he learned of the decision on Wednesday when he got an e-mail from an Elder marching band member.

        Some Princeton school board members were outraged as well. “The band is part of the pageantry, too,” said board member Gary Bryson. “We all have good bands.”

        Although the band issue has been settled, it creates more questions about how the county owned stadium should be used.

        “Do we use it for broader public purpose, or do we simply hold it hostage for 10 Sundays a year?” Mr. Portune said. “If all we do is get 10 Sunday afternoons a year out of the stadium, that's a bad deal. The unfortunate thing is we have to jump through so many hoops to do other things there.”
       Enquirer reporter William Weathers contributed to this story.


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