Saturday, July 06, 2002

Taxpayers won't move WCPO from city, Luken says

If they leave town, then no deal

By Ken Alltucker,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Cincinnati Mayor Charlie Luken said Friday no taxpayer dollars would be used to move Channel 9 outside the city.

        The city wants to acquire WCPO-TV's building and parking lot at Fifth Street and Central Avenue to allow a $200 million expansion of the Albert B. Sabin Cincinnati Convention Center.

        But even though Mr. Luken has made the downtown center's expansion a top priority, he said it won't happen at the cost of losing the Cincinnati news station to Hamilton County suburbs or Northern Kentucky.

        “The city will not move Channel 9 if they are going to leave the city,” Mr. Luken said. “We are not going to use taxpayer money to subsidize a move out of the city.”

        The city expects to receive the results of a property appraisal for the WCPO-TV property within two weeks, at which time it will make a formal offer to purchase the building.

        Channel 9's initial search for a new site within the city hasn't returned any good prospects, said Bill Fee, the station's vice president and general manager.

        The station wants space downtown or nearby with easy access to interstates for news trucks.

        Mr. Fee said sites suggested by the city, including the northeast corner of Vine Street and Central Parkway, are insufficient.

        “The first two meetings with city representatives really didn't show us anything,” said Mr. Fee, adding it would take two years to find a site and build a new station.

        Mr. Fee agrees the city shouldn't pay to move the station to a suburb. He plans to meet the mayor next week and talk about alternatives.

        “We have no intention of leaving the city,” said Mr. Fee.

        He said an ideal solution for Channel 9 is to stay put and double the size of its 35,000-square-foot news station.

        Talks about relocating Channel 9 intensified last month after the General Assembly passed a bill that would allow Hamilton County and Cincinnati to increase hotel taxes to pay for expansion of the convention center.

        A task force of business leaders and tourism officials appointed by Mr. Luken has studied financing, direction and size of the expansion. Earlier plans to build the convention center over Interstate 75 or expand east past the Millennium Hotel have been rejected.

        The current proposal is a more modest expansion west toward I-75.


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