By Kevin Aldridge
The Cincinnati Enquirer
The annual River Front Classic & Jamboree will be moving from the banks of the Ohio River to the shores of Lake Erie this year, organizers said Monday. John Pace, president of the River Front Classic Corp., said the four-day event, which attracts some of the best football teams from historically black colleges, would be held at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
Pace said the Classic would return to Cincinnati in 2004 and that organizers have devised a plan to rotate the yearly event between the cities. He said the event would now be called the Ohio Classic & Jamboree and that Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble would remain as the chief sponsor.
The Classic draws about 35,000 people and generates roughly $10-12 million in revenue.
"We are excited about moving forward with the event," Pace said. "Rotating the event between these two prominent cities will give the P&G Classic a competitive advantage over the other 40-plus classic events currently held across the country. We think this will be a major boost to the image and tourism (industries) of both cities."
Pace said the Classic would immediately return more than $42,000 to the city that organizers used for marketing and advertising.
The Sept. 20 football game between Tuskegee and Hampton universities could not be held at Paul Brown Stadium this year because of a scheduling conflict with the Bengals. The Bengals have a home game scheduled the following day.
Bengals officials had 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.
"The Classic lasts until about 7 p.m. and trying to prepare the field and clean the place to where it is acceptable for people coming into the Bengals game the next day would be a huge undertaking," said Eric Brown, managing director of Paul Brown Stadium Limited - the group that operates and maintains the stadium.
The Classic joins a growing list of predominantly black events that won't be in Cincinnati this year.
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 organizers are seeking to have the third Saturday in September as a set date for the Classic. He said extending the Classic to Cleveland would expose an audience of northern Ohioans to the football game for the first time.
Pace said organizers hope many of those people will travel to Cincinnati when the Classic returns next year. Likewise, he said he hopes Cincinnatians would make the trip to Cleveland.
"This decreases the probability that people would get bored with the event," Pace said. "It also lessens the burden on the Bengals to have to be away from home every third Saturday in September."
Cincinnati Mayor Charlie Luken said he is excited about the partnership with the city of Cleveland. "We'll be happy to host them again in 2004," Luken said.
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