Sunday, April 27, 1997
Will the Reds play ball
with Kentucky?


BY LAURA PULFER
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Heard any good Newport jokes lately? I haven't either. Unless you count the tower which is supposed to be part amusement park ride, part museum.

That's kind of funny, I suppose. But Laura Long takes it seriously, so you won't catch me laughing.

She is Newport's economic development director, and, lordy, hasn't their economy developed since she arrived 14 years ago in her blue Volkswagen Rabbit?

Some people are beginning to wonder what would happen if the Hamilton County commissioners decide to jam Broadway Commons down Marge Schott's throat. And let's say Marge really chokes on the idea. This is not a negotiating ploy. She really just can't swallow it.

Would Laura Long be there with a hearty pat on the back?

If I were Tom Neyer, Bob Bedinghaus and John Dowlin, I wouldn't put this one to the test.

Stranger things have happened. Right there in Newport.

Laura Long now drives a much better car - something with leather, a telephone and power everything - and Newport has prospered as well.

Riverboat Row has become a dining center. The H.J. Heinz Co. located 225 employees in its 10-story office building across from the floodwall, where the river view must be pretty spectacular.

Girls! Girls! Girls!

There's a handsome new municipal building, and the number of bars with Girls! Girls! Girls! has declined from 17 to a handful. A $40 million aquarium is scheduled to open in two years.

She calls it an integral part of the puzzle. ''The aquarium is a signature project and from that will come an entire Third-Street entertainment district.'' Including a $100 million tower. This woman knows how to put together a deal. And an urban community.

It begins, she says, with foot traffic. ''Pedestrians are what make cities livable. We want people to park their cars and walk - to the aquarium, to the tower, to the Underground Railway Museum.''

Across the river?

Sure, she says. It should all work together.

Not surprisingly, she thinks it would be nice if the baseball park was part of the mix. ''There's not enough market in this small urban area to spread these things out.''

Hmmm. I guess Jim Tarbell hasn't gotten to her yet with his baseball at Broadway Commons crusade. That would be a very long walk from Newport and Covington. It might be a little like the walk from the Museum Center at Union Terminal to anyplace at all.

Splendid isolation

And remember the passion to locate the Historical Society and Museum of Natural History in this wonderful historic train station? Cut off from the river and from downtown, this attraction hasn't done much to revitalize that side of town. Or encourage visitors to do anything more than get in their cars and go home when they're finished.

Conversely, the Museum Center doesn't get a spillover boost from any other nearby attraction. Nobody will walk there after a baseball game, unless there's another secret idea for a location.

With Northern Kentucky such a strong partner for riverfront development, why would Hamilton County put the Cincinnati Reds anywhere else?

A very stubborn woman, Mrs. Schott has said repeatedly that she wants her team to play in a park where you can see the river as well as the Cincinnati skyline. Laura Long views the riverfront as one, big, happy urban market. Wonder what would happen if they got together to share their views.

Mrs. Schott has, I believe, already heard from the people who want her to locate her team at the edge of Over-the-Rhine.

There are two sides to every story. And to every river.

Laura Pulfer's column appears in The Enquirer on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Call 768-8393 or fax 768-8340. She can be heard Monday mornings on WVXU radio, and as a regular commentator on NPR's Morning Edition.

PULFER ARCHIVE