Let's end the sordid, costly battle of wills

Thursday, October 22, 1998

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Give us a break. We're sick of hearing about it, reading about it. We don't believe anybody. We think it's a political mess. Our money is being wasted on legal hassles. And it's turning something that should be natural and fun into something sordid.

Not Monica and Paula and Bill. People closer to home, Marge and Jim and Bob. I'm talking about Issue 11, popularly known as the *&%#*$ Stadium Issue.

Hindsight druthers

Where would I like to have the Reds stadium? Well, I would like to have it right where it is, sharing space with the Bengals. And I would like to have the owners of these lucrative sports franchises spend their own profits to bring this facility up to their most exacting standards.

I would like both teams to win most of their games. And I would like to be able to brag about them.

That is what I would like.

What I am getting is a seldom-used sports palace, squatting on some of the most valuable land in the region. I am getting some rather ugly news about the price tag. And it takes me twice as long to get to work. That is what I am getting.

It appears, however, that we might still have a say in the location of the baseball stadium. Maybe. At least we are going to vote about it.

If we vote yes for Issue 11, we are saying we would like our money to be spent building a ballpark at Broadway Commons. And that's all we're saying. In the words of the bipartisan League of Women Voters, "It will not eliminate any county offices nor will it create a metro government."

If we vote no, we are giving Hamilton County commissioners and the Reds the go-ahead to continue plans for a ballpark on the riverfront.

We're not going to see our money again, any way you cook the books. A recent Heritage Foundation study says communities that subsidize sports facilities spend much more money than they get back. The Reds can't single-handedly rescue either the riverfront or Over-the-Rhine.

Voters just have to decide where they think their money would do the most good.

In deep denial

In a 1994 study, Robert Baade, a sports economist from Lake Forest College in Illinois, examined every city with a major-league sports team between 1958 and 1987. He found their effect on the regional economy similar to that of a medium-sized department store.

"Think how much better off your regional economy could be by investing it in factories, or education, or other commercial projects," he said at the time.

But we weren't listening.

We were watching television ads paid for by Citizens for a Major League Future, who promised us that we would forever lose our status as a city of consequence if we allowed the Bengals to move.

And we bought it. The voters of Hamilton County voted to pay for two new stadiums. We are being held to our word. That's the way it works.

But on Nov. 3, those of us who have -- shall we say -- a touch of buyer's remorse will have a chance to offer up a single-digit salute to the powers that overestimated the stadiums' importance and underestimated their cost. I am guessing that this is an irresistible opportunity and Broadway Commons will win in a rout.

No matter what happens, let this be the end of it.

If voters say no to his site, Jim Tarbell should say, "Well, I just wanted to be sure you had a chance to make your voice heard."

And if voters say yes to Issue 11, if they want to put the ballpark on Broadway Commons, then Marge Schott and the Reds should graciously accept our decision (and, of course, our money). Bob Bedinghaus and company should roll up their sleeves and make this work.

After extra innings, the game is over.

Laura Pulfer's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. E-mail her at laurapulfer@enquirer.com fax 768-8340 or call 768-8393. She can be heard Monday mornings on WVXU radio and as a commentator on National Public Radio's Morning Edition. Her new book, I Beg to Differ, a collection of her most popular columns and commentaries, is available at (800) 852-9332.

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