Tuesday, April 1, 2003

Reds fans make trip across river

By Brenna R. Kelly
The Cincinnati Enquirer

COVINGTON - Sitting on steps at the end of Riverside Drive, Daniel Drag watched former President Bush throw the first pitch, heard the national anthem and watched C-130 military transport planes fly over the Ohio River.

With a clear view of the giant screen inside Great American Ball Park and sounds carrying across the river, Covington wasn't a bad seat for the Opening Day festivities.

And for those who had a ticket for a seat inside the new Great American Ball Park, Northern Kentucky was also a good starting point.

Reds fans could ride across the river aboard one of three water taxis or walk across the Roebling Suspension or the Taylor-Southgate bridges.

Bob Blume, 51, and his son Brent, 24, chose to take a wind-whipped ride across the river on the Mark Twain, a ferry departing from Mike Fink restaurant.

"We think it's a nice amenity,'' said Bob Blume, of Milford. "It's something different. It adds to the festivities of today."

For the first time, BB Riverboats provided two ferries, the Mark Twain and the River Queen, which left from Covington Landing. The $2 ride took about 10 minutes. Queen City River Boats also ferried Reds fans across the river from Hooters in Newport.

More than 150 rode on one of the Mark Twain's three trips to the stadium before the game.

Tom Taylor and his family usually walk across the Suspension Bridge to Reds games. But because his wife Stacey is pregnant, they decided to ride.

That was just fine with 11-year-old Zach.

"It's a lot faster,'' he said.

And "it's pretty cool," added his friend Jordan Wood, 10.

The Taylors played hooky from school and work in Lexington to attend the season opener. They plan to ride the water taxi for more games this summer.

"Last year, we came up for a Bengals game and parked over there (Ohio), it took us an hour to get out,'' Tom Taylor said. "This is much easier."

Others chose the familiarity of walking across the Suspension Bridge. Tom Kruse and his five co-workers have been coming to Opening Day from their Columbus homes for 15 years.

After several rounds of beer and chicken wings at Behle Street Cafe, the group planned to walk across the bridge to the game.

They lodged at the Covington Marriott because of the quick access to the ballpark.

"It's just as close, as far as the hotel," said Kruse. "There's just as much to do over here after the game."

Parking across the river

Some fans ended up parking in Northern Kentucky because they couldn't park in Cincinnati.

Mary Bausano of Oxford and her son Jake parked under the Suspension Bridge after they couldn't get to their usual downtown parking spot because of the parade.

"This is great, we might do this every time,'' she said while bundling up for the walk across the bridge.

Some fans worried that construction of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and the destruction of Cinergy Field would hinder pedestrian access to Great American; instead they found a fenced walkway through the construction zone.

More people may have parked in Kentucky on Monday because the new ballpark has fewer parking places than Cinergy. Cinergy's garage had about 3,500 parking spots at its peak, but Great American has only 576.

Getting to the stadium from Northern Kentucky will be even easier when the Newport Southbank Bridge, the former L&N Bridge, opens as a pedestrian walkway April 26.

When that happens, many fans are expected to park at the Newport on the Levee entertainment complex and walk over the bridge. The Levee has 1,876 parking spaces and is offering Reds fans season parking for $150. Even without the bridge open, Jeff Ruby's Tropicana did a bustling business Monday, said manager Michael Gaines.

Valets shuttled some patrons from the Levee restaurant to the game. Many patrons kept their tabs open and planned to return for dinner after the game, he said.

E-mail bkelly@enquirer.com

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