Monday, April 14, 1997
Marge, Mike can't
seem to play fair


BY CLIFF RADEL
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Mike Brown wants to give Marge Schott a wedgie.

She doesn't want any part of it.

And even if she did, there's no way she's going to wait three years to get it.

So, once more, the owners of Cincinnati's big-league sports franchises have reached an impasse. Pouting, the stamping of feet and the holding of one's breath until he or she turns blue could follow. These two kids just can't get along.

In their latest go-round, he did not object to the proposal that her new stadium go on the riverfront in the wedgie site.

But his approval came with a catch: Construction on a new Reds stadium should be put on hold until the Bengals finish their final season at Cinergy Field.

That would be in 1999. Then Marge could have her wedgie. But that delay could postpone the opening of the Reds' new ballpark until 2002. Or later. It might even have the team playing in the old ballpark while part of it is being torn down.

So, Marge nixed the wedgie and renewed her demand that the Reds' new stadium must go west of the Suspension Bridge. That's next to the Bengals' new digs and against their wishes.

It's also yet another skirmish in the never-ending battle of Mike vs. Marge.

The club

To understand their contentious relationship and to see how the fans suffer when two hard heads collide, just visit Cinergy Field's stadium club.

It's the club that never was. For 27 years, it has been a political football for the Bengals and a spitball for the Reds.

The attempt to bring a touch of glamour and posh to the concrete canyon has been in the planning stages since Riverfront opened in 1970. When the Reds wanted it built in 1989, the Bengals batted it down. When the Bengals said yes in 1994, the Reds balked at turning the space into a luxury bar and grill.

So it sits incomplete, a concrete void in the ring of yellow seats above center field.

Glamour? Posh? Take a look at this decor: 1,200 metal folding chairs, some positioned on plywood risers held up by concrete blocks. The chairs are the kind used at the kids' table on Thanksgiving.

Unpadded and painted in shades of brown to cover a crust of rust, the chairs can be hosed down in case of spills.

Plans from the late '80s called for a stadium club with a drop ceiling and carpeting. Today, bird droppings splatter the open window frames and peanut shells carpet the concrete floors.

An artist's rendering decorated the club with wood paneling, a lobby to rival a small hotel and glistening chandeliers hanging from the ceiling.

Today, bicycle-stand barricades and red all-weather curtains cordon off sections of the bare slab. The cold concrete is illuminated by bare bulbs hanging from exposed girders.

The club was designed to bring Riverfront into the modern age of stadiums, circa 1970. Set up to be open year-round for lunch and dinner, it aimed to show that there was more to the stadium experience than the action on the field.

Instead, it's a direct reflection of the joint custody of Mike and Marge. When they disagree, the fans suffer.

Uneasy future

Now, we are engaged in an ambitious venture to build and pay for two new stadiums, one for the Bengals, one for the Reds. These are considerably larger and more expensive enterprises than building a 17,465-square-foot stadium club.

Let's assume, for a couple paragraphs, that the city makes a big mistake and puts both stadiums on the river. Beyond abandoning the rest of the city, the arrangement sets up another run of the Mike and Marge show. Based on the stadium club experience, that's not a pretty prospect.

My fear is they will continue their petty squabbling and forget about serving the fans, much less the community at large. Neither sports baron (or baroness) has seemed particularly concerned with the big picture.

Instead of state-of-the-art stadiums that pump up civic pride - not to mention draw fans through the turnstiles - I'm afraid we'll get the late-'90s equivalent of naked concrete and bare bulbs.

Here's an idea: Let's negotiate this deal where it all began. Bring the vain and powerful to a summit conference in the stadium club. Have them talk about our future.

Just remember to bring a card table for all those folding chairs.

Cliff Radel's column appears in The Enquirer Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Tips and comments most welcome. Call 768-8379 or fax at 768-8340.

RADEL ARCHIVE

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