Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Football Classic lacking stadium

By Kevin Aldridge
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The annual River Front Classic & Jamboree may not return to Cincinnati this year because of a scheduling conflict with the Bengals in September, organizers said Tuesday.

John Pace, president of the River Front Classic Corp., said he is searching for a NFL stadium to hold the event, which is scheduled for Sept. 20. He said Paul Brown Stadium, where it was held last year, is not an option because the Bengals have a home game scheduled the following day.

The Classic attracts some of the best football teams from historically black colleges - this year a match-up between Tuskegee and Hampton universities. It draws about 35,000 people and generates roughly $10-12 million in revenues for the city.

Pace said Bengals officials expressed concern that field conditions might not meet National Football League standards by their game Sunday if the Classic were held that Saturday - particularly in the event of bad weather.

Pace declined to speculate on where the Classic might relocate, but said he would like to stay in Cincinnati.

"Our hearts are here in Cincinnati, so that would be our hope," Pace said. "But we are looking everywhere. We are going to resolve this quickly and hopefully have a new location by the end of the week."

Pace said organizers are looking at stadiums that could comfortably seat about 30,000 people.

"Our loyal customer base is accustomed to attending our games in NFL stadiums," he said.

This would be the second time in three years that the Classic was not held in Cincinnati. In 2001, the football game was canceled because of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Losing the Classic would be yet another blow to an already ailing downtown economy. If it goes, the Classic would join a growing list of predominantly black events no longer in Cincinnati.

The area's largest annual concert, JazzFest, moved to Detroit in February because of the entertainment boycott. Ujima Cinci-Bration, a celebration of African-American heritage, ended last year because of funding problems.

Pace said if the Classic does leave Cincinnati, it would likely be back in 2004.



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