Thursday, August 5, 2004

Festival seating unanimously OK'd

Council reassured Who tragedy won't be repeated

By Steve Kemme
Enquirer staff writer

While acknowledging the objections of some who lived through the tragic 1979 Who concert, Cincinnati City Council on Wednesday removed the city's 25-year-old ban on festival seating at concerts.

Before council's unanimous vote lifted the ban, Mayor Charlie Luken and several council members said they feel certain that general-admission seating on the floor of concert venues can be handled safely.

"We remember the tragedy," Luken said. "But I think this is a reasonable measure. We are being careful and acting in a way to protect citizens."

The city imposed the festival-seating ban soon after the Dec. 3, 1979, concert by The Who at then-Riverfront Coliseum, where 11 people were killed when the crowd jammed into the coliseum to grab the best seats.

But city officials said safeguards in the new ordinance and the advances in technology since the Who concert will minimize the potential dangers of festival seating.

City officials believe festival seating will enable Cincinnati to compete more effectively with other cities for concerts and other entertainment. No other city in the nation bans festival seating, Luken said.

"Other cities have found that you can have festival seating if you do it in a smart way," Luken said.

Vice Mayor Alicia Reece said there have been no problems at the few Cincinnati concerts where festival seating was permitted.

Riverfront Coliseum has most recently been renamed U.S. Bank Arena.

"We think it's positive," Matt Dunne, vice president and general manager of U.S. Bank Arena, said of council's move.

"We need to follow it very closely and make sure it's a safe environment."

The new festival-seating rules require promoters to apply to the fire chief for permission to have general-admission seating at concerts.

They also require 7 square feet of space per person - a national standard - and allow city officials to order more doors opened and more security added if they think it's necessary.

In other business, City Council:

• Approved submitting a charter amendment for the Nov. 2 election ballot that would repeal the city's controversial Article XII, which prohibits the city from granting special class status based on sexual orientation.

City Council was legally required to take this step because the petitions filed by opponents of Article XII contained enough signatures.

• Honored Ohio National Guard Staff Sgt. Paul Brondhaver, who returned home last month after being seriously wounded in Iraq.

Brondhaver, 36, had been a long-time employee of the Cincinnati Recreation Commission and had been involved as a volunteer with many youth groups.


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