Thursday, June 5, 2003

Cincinnati bids on Women's World Cup

Presentation promotes Paul Brown Stadium as potential site

By Mark Curnutte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Hamilton County and the Cincinnati Bengals are teaming up in an attempt to bring Women's World Cup Soccer Championship games to Paul Brown Stadium this fall.

The Cincinnati bid is one of 12 to 15 venues competing to be among the four to seven host sites, said Jim Moorhouse, spokesman for the Chicago-based U.S. Soccer Federation, which will decide where the games are played.

The Women's World Cup originally had been scheduled for China from Sept. 23 to Oct. 11 but was moved because of the threat of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.

The United States was selected ahead of Sweden as the alternate site.

The announcement on selected U.S. sites is expected by mid-June but possibly as early as next week, Moorhouse said.

Hamilton County Commissioner John Dowlin announced the local bid Wednesday.

"I can't think of a more exciting and community-uniting experience than having Cincinnati in the national spotlight hosting the most popular sport in the world," Dowlin said. "This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and we must - and will - do everything within reason to bring (the event) here."

The event dates are Sept. 24-25, Sept. 27-28 and Oct. 1-2. Two games would be played each day, and one of the four games would include the U.S. women's team, said Bob Bedinghaus, a former Hamilton County Commissioner who is working on the bid on behalf of the Bengals.

The taxpayer-funded stadium, of course, is the home of the Bengals. But the team's schedule will not interfere with the soccer dates. The Bengals plays at home against the Steelers on Sept. 21 but are at Cleveland and Buffalo the next two Sundays. The Bengals have a bye Oct. 12 before returning home for an Oct. 19 game against Baltimore.

"This is one time the planets seem to be aligned in our favor," Bedinghaus said.

The stadium's lower seating bowl will not have to be changed to accommodate the 68-by-110-yard field. A $700,000 feature was added toward the end of stadium construction that allows concrete walls and risers to be removed from the four corners of the playing field to make room for soccer. Still, the temporary remodeling would cost an estimated $350,000, an expense an event sponsor would have to pick up.

The stadium also meets the World Cup requirement of a natural-grass playing field.

Moorhouse, of the soccer federation, would not reveal what other cities are in the running.

The federation wants to keep the new schedule as close to the original as possible. And available dates, kickoff times and proximity of venues to each other are all important factors. Organizers are trying to choose sites that spread the event nationwide but also make travel convenient for teams. For example, if Columbus, home of the Columbus Crew and Crew Stadium, were to be chosen, that site could either help or hurt Cincinnati's chances, Moorhouse said.

Playing in Cincinnati's favor, he added, were the facts that the federation always is looking to expand into new markets and that Ohio is one of the national hotbeds of youth soccer.

Bedinghaus said the amenities of the 65,000-seat stadium itself and the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport are the top two attractions in the local bid.


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