By Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Reds fans will find roughly the same amount of downtown parking available when they head to Great American Ball Park. But don't forget your walking shoes because some of the spaces aren't as close as at Cinergy Field.
"People will have to recalibrate," John Schneider, formerly a student of downtown parking for Downtown Cincinnati Inc. said. "It's all there, but it's different."
Cinergy's garage had about 3,500 parking spots at its peak, but Great American will only have 576 spaces to start with - 100 for those with disabilities and the rest for prepaid pass holders, officials say.
The garage, still under construction, will total about 835 spaces when it's finished next year - leaving a lot of fans looking for off-site parking.
Great American Ball Park's main entrance is at Second and Main streets. Pedestrians can also get in from Mehring Way and via a stairway on Pete Rose Way between Old and New Broadway.
From northbound Interstate 471: Take the Sixth Street exit, or follow the signs for I-75 and get off at Third Street.
From southbound I-71: Take the Gilbert Avenue exit and follow the signs, or take the Third Street exit.
From northbound I-71/75: Take either the Second Street or Fifth Street exit.
From southbound I-75: Take the exit for Seventh, Fifth or Second.
By Metro: Take any route that goes to the main Government Square stop on Fifth Street. Metro also will have express park-and-ride service on Opening Day and April 3 from the Anderson Park & Ride, 7954 Beechmont Ave.; Kenwood Baptist Church, 8341 Kenwood Road; Cobblewood Plaza, near Winton Road and I-275 in Forest Park; and Western Hills Plaza on Glenway Avenue. The cost is $5 round trip. Information: 621-4455
By Southbank Shuttle: Buses loop among Covington, Newport and downtown Cincinnati. The Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky, which operates the service, runs extra buses for Reds games. Cost: 50 cents each way. Information: (859) 331-8265
By water taxi: Catch BB Riverboats' ferry at Covington Landing. Cost: $2 round trip. Information: (859) 261-8500
"On the demand side, there will be many more people coming down this year than previous years" because of the new stadium, Schneider said.
But it shouldn't be too hard to find, or too expensive, he said - especially for those willing to walk.
The loss of the last 2,300 Cinergy spots with its December implosion has been partly offset by the new spots at Great American and several other locations, according to DCI. The downtown advocacy and marketing group also tracks parking trends.
A garage under construction at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center just north of the Roebling Suspension Bridge will eventually add 750 spots to the mix - 550 of those in July, DCI's Anastasia Mileham said.
That will give downtown Cincinnati more than 27,500 spots by mid-season, down about 1,300 from July 2002.
However, parking options south of the river are increasingly coming into play.
The new entertainment complex Newport on the Leveehas 1,876 parking spaces just across the Ohio from Great American. It's offering Reds fans season parking for $150 and shuttles to the game.
Also, BB Riverboats has announced plans to run a Covington-to-downtown water taxi for Reds games.
The idea of parking in Kentucky isn't a new one for Bobby Poindexter, 35, of Cynthiana, Ky., who's looking forward to his 10th Opening Day on March 31. He usually parks in Covington for games and walks over the Roebling Suspension Bridge, although if he does that this year, he'll have to trek west around the Freedom Center construction.
It's not only that parking is cheaper south of the river.
"It seems easier than dealing with downtown traffic," Poindexter said.
He hopes to reach Cincinnati about noon on Opening Day to have plenty of time to figure out how to get to Great American.
North of the river, parking is available at lots and garages along Third Street, around Paul Brown Stadium and north in Cincinnati's business district.
One of the best deals in town is the Fountain Square garage, which is $1 after 5 p.m. and on weekends.
Also, parking at these county-owned lots and garages will be free during the Great American open houses Saturday and Sunday: Lot A, Third and Plum streets; Lot B, Race and Second streets; Lot C, Pete Rose Way; Lot D, between the Suspension Bridge and Paul Brown Stadium; Lot E, Mehring Way; the Great American garage; and the East Garage, 443 Pete Rose Way.
In general, Schneider said he doesn't expect sky-high game-day parking this year.
"Parking operators feel they have no pricing power right now," Schneider said. "I'd be surprised if prices are above $10."
The walk from the business district to Great American will be easier than the walk to Cinergy because the new ballpark is level with Second Street. Cinergy Field was built above grade because of flooding concerns, according to City Architect Bob Richardson, so pedestrians had to take bridges to the park.
"It's right across the street now," he said.
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