Tuesday, March 4, 2003

Water taxi to shuttle Reds fans

It will travel from Covington to ballpark

By Gina Holt
Enquirer contributor

Covington leaders say getting to Reds home games just got easier. A new water taxi service will provide a passenger ferry from the dock at Covington Landing to Cincinnati's public landing at the base of Great American Ball Park.

Alan Bernstein, who plans to operate a water taxi between Covington and the Great American Ball Park for Cincinnati Reds games this season, on the dock at the Mike Fink Restaurant across the Ohio River from the ballpark.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
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BB Riverboats will also take fans from the games to Covington Landing's restaurants and bars.

"It's going to be a real home run for the city," Covington Mayor Butch Callery said. "This kind of adds to the experience when you go to a ball game."

The cost is $2 to get on in Covington, but there is no cost to board in Cincinnati.

Passengers will be able to purchase snacks and drinks from the full bar on the Mark Twain Excursion Boat, which holds 150 people, during the 10-minute taxi ride.

Jay Fossett, city solicitor for Covington, said it would be cheaper for people attending the game to park in Covington and pay to take the ferry than to park in Cincinnati.

And with the destruction of Cinergy Field and the construction of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, fans who walk across the Roebling Suspension Bridge may find it more difficult to reach the stadium.

He said parking in Cincinnati usually costs about $3 per hour or anywhere from $5 to $10 for event parking. Parking at Covington's city garage is $2 for a weeknight evening and $3 on a weekend evening.

That puts your total cost for one person for parking and taxi at $5 on a weekend night.

"If you drive to Cincinnati, there are a lot of parking problems and congestion,'' Callery said.

He said fans have traditionally crossed the Roebling Suspension Bridge to attend Reds games. However, this year, crews are removing debris from the demolition of Cinergy Field in that area.

Construction of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center also is taking place just across the Suspension Bridge, so though walking to the game is still possible, it could be tricky.

BB Riverboats provided the ferry service to Bengal games during the last season.

"We would usually make two or three trips," said Alan Bernstein, owner of BB Riverboats, adding that he expects it to be as popular or more for Reds games.

"We hope 400 or 500 people will use it per game," he said.

Starting Opening Day, the ferry will leave Covington Landing one hour before the game, one half hour before the game and at game time.

It will leave Cincinnati in the top of the seventh inning and continue making trips until 15 minutes after the game ends.

"We think it's going to be a great added service," Bernstein said. "It will be something positive for Cincinnati to talk about for a while."

Fossett said Covington plans to advertise and promote the ferry. Several Covington businesses have agreed to help with the cost since they expect it will boost their business.

The city expects to spend $3,000 on promotions.

Lt. Steven Garcia, chief of inspections for the United States Coast Guard's Louisville office, said since BB Riverboats is in operation and has passed inspections, it already meets regulations to act as a river taxi or ferry.

Lt. Lee Boone, chief of the Domestic Vessels Branch for the U.S. Coast Guard's Seattle office, said Seattle has 26 million annual passengers on Washington State Ferries.

"We have a little commuter run that runs from downtown Seattle to west Seattle," said Boone. "We have car ferries that take cars and trucks. It's basically an extension of the Washington state highway. It's heavily used by commuters going to work. It's also a way to get to sporting events."

Ferries have been used on the Ohio River in the past for special events such as the Great Inland Seafood Festival.

Hooters and other riverfront bars will often provide a river taxi to sporting events on Ohio's side of the river.

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