Sunday, December 8, 2002

Pick a spot and watch Cinergy's walls fall

But take a coat if you decide not to watch on TV

By Howard Wilkinson
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[photo] Jim Capano, general manager at Mike Fink, the floating riverfront restaurant closest to the stadium, says, "We're booked. ... Lots of people figured out pretty fast that this would be a great place to watch."
(Glenn Hartong photo)
| ZOOM |
If you want to see Cinergy Field collapse into a pile of dust and debris Dec. 29, you have two choices:

Inside, where it's warm, or outside, where it's not.

The people in charge of triggering the 8 a.m. implosion that will bring down the 32-year-old stadium expect a huge audience. They think the crowd lining the Ohio and Kentucky riverbanks could top the half-million people who flock to Riverfest fireworks each September.

In addition, many others will be watching live on local television from the comfort of their homes.

Hamilton County officials and the O'Rourke Wrecking Co., the demolition firm hired to implode the former home of the Reds and Bengals, know that many Tristate residents will want to be downtown to witness the brief-but-memorable event, but they aren't encouraging that.

"It's probably not the best idea, unless you have someplace to go, like one of the downtown office buildings, or the hotels and riverboats," said Jeff Sizemore, project manager for O'Rourke. "If it came down to a choice of standing out in the cold or watching it on TV, staying warm makes more sense."

The main public viewing area that will be set aside for implosion-watchers on the Cincinnati side of the river will be on the north sidewalk of Third Street, from Race to Broadway.

But that could change, depending on the weather.

Mike Sieving, Hamilton County's construction manager who is overseeing the implosion planning, said a last-minute decision will be made about whether the public will be allowed access to the Third Street viewing area.

"If there's a strong breeze coming from the south, we may have to move people off of Third Street," Mr. Sieving said. "It just wouldn't be safe."

Implosions of massive structures such as Cinergy Field are not tidy events. They kick up a huge cloud of dust that takes hours to dissipate and is unhealthful to breathe.

"You don't want to be standing out in the middle of that," Mr. Sieving said.

But Mr. Sieving said the implosion team has been studying past weather patterns in Cincinnati and has found that, normally, there is a breeze of only about 3 mph. If the winds are that calm, he said, "there shouldn't be any problem."

The implosion crew also expects thousands to gather outdoors on Covington's Riverfront Row, directly across the river from the stadium, and around the mouth of the Licking River in Newport for what will be one of the best views of the collapse.

About 1,300 specially invited, ticketed guests will watch the 38-second spectacle from behind glass windows in the comfort of the east club area of Paul Brown Stadium. Those people will be the invited guests of the demolition contractor, Hamilton County and the Cincinnati Bengals.

Many of the downtown office buildings along the riverfront will be open, with some companies planning special "implosion-watching" breakfasts.

For those who thought ahead to make reservations, there is the option of upper-level rooms at the riverfront hotels in Covington, or the dining room of Mike Fink restaurant or on board the BB Riverboats' Belle of Cincinnati, docked on the Kentucky side.

"We're booked. We have been for weeks," said Jim Capano, general manager of Mike Fink, the floating riverfront restaurant closest to the stadium. "Lots of people figured out pretty fast that this would be a great place to watch."

About 375 people, most of them in large private parties, will begin filling the Mike Fink about 6:30 a.m. for a breakfast buffet.

At 7 a.m., the U.S. Coast Guard will block boat traffic on the Ohio River between the Daniel Carter Beard Bridge on Interstate 471 and the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge.

The Roebling Suspension Bridge, the one nearest to the stadium, will shut down to vehicles and pedestrians.

From 6:30 to 7 a.m., BB Riverboats' Belle of Cincinnati will have a breakfast cruise and will dock next to the Mike Fink when river traffic is shut down.

BB Riverboats vice president Alan Bernstein said that, as of Friday, about half of the riverboat's 800-passenger capacity was booked.

"I have no doubt that we'll be full by Dec. 29," Mr. Bernstein said. "You only get one chance to see something like this."


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