Saturday, June 14, 2003

Ballpark sign may notice city

County's welcome could add 'Cincinnati'

By Gregory Korte and Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer

In a bit of a thaw in the usually chilly relationship between Cincinnati and Hamilton County officials, Mayor Charlie Luken may convince the county to put the city's name on the $290 million Great American Ball Park.

Luken was walking into the ballpark during the Yankees series last week when some out-of-town visitors asked him about the sign over the main gate that reads "Hamilton County Welcomes You."

So the next day, he fired off an e-mail to Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune: "This is Cincinnati. . . . Whether we are in Clermont County or Northern Kentucky, we are Cincinnatians, and we should tell visitors we are proud of that."

Luken thought his plea would fall on deaf ears.

"I know there are political considerations, but I just thought I'd ask," he wrote.

Portune said he has always thought the city's name should be on the park, but that prior commissioners decided to put the county name all over the old Riverfront Stadium/Cinergy Field when the county took control of the facility years ago.

"That was a purposeful dig at the city," Portune said.

The two Republican commissioners continued the tradition when the new sign was selected, he said, although he preferred "Cincinnati, Hamilton County Welcomes You."

Phil Heimlich - like Portune a former Cincinnati councilman - said he agreed to put the county name on the stadium just after becoming commissioner in January. Commissioner John Dowlin wanted it that way, and Heimlich said he went with Dowlin "out of respect."

Now that he has thought about it, Heimlich said, he supports including Cincinnati.

As long as it doesn't cost too much.

County Administrator David Krings said Friday cost will determine whether the sign will change.

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