Brad Causey
Brad Causey,
Editor and Publisher
R. Shannon Pollard
Kevin Sommers
David R. Wehry
James E. Foy
The Freedom Letter
Wither Cinergy?
Remember Cinergy field? Or maybe you remember the name Riverfront Stadium? Those of you who have visited Cincinnati, Ohio in the last 30 years know what I am referring to. As this is written, the stadium formerly known as Riverfront, home of the Reds (MLB) and the Bengals (NFL) since 1971 is no more. It was imploded the last week of December 2002. Why would the fine folks of Cincinnati blow up a relatively new stadium? Good question. Read on and I will attempt to explain the madness.
I made the pilgrimage to Cincinnati last summer. Specifically to see the Stadium that was "new" and "state of the art" in my youth. Through a business connection I had very good seats. (Thanks Richard and the Speedmeister. Thanks also to Bill and Joyce in Louisville for putting up with me for two nights!) Field level about 12 rows up, behind first base. I attempted to find a companion to accompany me, no luck this time. Oh well.
I spent a lot of time wandering around the complex. I took a lot of pictures. I asked a lot of questions. I was attempting to learn why this apparently perfectly good facility was scheduled for demolition. One of the guys in the souvenir shop told me it was "structural problems." Since I was on the lower level, I attempted to notice the deficiencies. Needs some paint, other than that, nothing apparent. The food was good, the people were friendly, I was trying to figure out what was "wrong."
The Bengals (football team) moved across the street a couple of years ago to the new Paul Brown stadium. Very nice, at least from the outside. A new baseball stadium (The great American ball park) is now visible in the outfield. This is where the Reds will play next (this) season. After the Bengals left, they removed the astro-turf and planted grass. The Reds now have a real dirt infield. The stadium was a complete bowl for 29 years, now they have knocked out everything from the left foul pole to deep center field. Looks good. The upper deck is sparsely populated, but the rest of the other 3 decks are well attended. I am trying to figure out how they played football in here also. More wanderings. In my tour of the "plaza" level I find a diagram on the wall showing the relative placement of the football field. I asked one of the ushers if he knew how it worked. No luck, he had been hired after the football team left. I wander some more...
During a rain delay I made it all the way over to the left field foul pole on the field level. I asked a gentlemen who was standing looking toward home plate if he knew anything about the history of the stadium. Turns out he has been a season ticket holder since the Reds played at Crosley Field. He was glad to oblige. He showed me an area of the grass right next to the field level seats where a decorative panel was missing. A set of tracks, unused for a time. It turns out that for football, half of the field level seats (starting at the third base dugout) actually rotate all the way over to face the field level seats on the far side of the stadium. Home plate becomes the corner of the end zone. This matches the diagram I had seen earlier. The seats in the end zone are actually temporary bleachers which are stored during baseball events. I talked to another employee. He said the quickest he had ever seen the change-over accomplished was 14 hours. There had a been a Reds game on Saturday afternoon and it had to ready for football on Sunday morning. They worked all night. Since the seats are motorized, that is the easy part. Then you have to dig out the pitchers mound, remove the bases, zip in the replacement turf, install the temporary seats and stripe the field. Two different press boxes, shared locker rooms, home plate camera angles for baseball, become tunnels for the football teams. Interesting.
After some research it turns out a lot of stadiums of this era were built in a similar fashion. Some other examples:
Shea Stadium in NYC
Busch Stadium in St. Louis
Three Rivers in Pittsburg (demolished 2000)
Jack Murphy (now Qualcomm) in San Diego (home of this year's Superbowl)
Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia
Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium (demolished 1997)
The Astrodome in Houston (yes, I know it has a roof!)
Hopefully I remembered them all. The only ones still being used are Qualcomm, Shea, and Busch. The ownerships in all 3 cities are whining to get new ones. Veterans is scheduled for implosion this fall. Busch in now baseball only, because the Rams play a few blocks away in the dome connected to the convention center. If you remember, The NY football Jets used to play at Shea. Now you know how they did it.
So, why did the people of Cincinnati, Pittsburg, Altanta (and soon Philadelphia) blow up perfectly usable venues? Apparently it is a combination of greed, stupidity and politics. Lack of maintenance is part of greed. Greedy owners and players, both baseball and football, are also to blame. Stupid are the voters who tolerate such outlandish expenditures. Politics, well, it is what we should expect and deserve when only a small percentage of us working (taxpaying) people actually show up at the polls on a regular basis.
A single example of the dollars involved. The new football-only stadium in Cincinnati cost $450 million dollars. The new baseball-only stadium, an additional $425 million. With parking, demolition and cleanup of the old stadium and new parking lots in between, the total is close to $1 billion dollars. The original cost of the multipurpose Riverfront? $35 million. At the time of construction, the taxpayers of southern Ohio were told "this is the last stadium we will ever need." (an added note: the original bonds were still not paid off when the stadium was demolished) I wonder how quickly the "new" stadiums will be declared obsolete. Have our stadiums become as disposable as styrofoam cups?
As if this were not enough they have given the cheapest owner in the NFL (Mike Brown) total control over all real estate within the vicinity of either new stadium. All at taxpayer expense. Ah, to inherit a football team from your father. Now, Mike it is time to produce a winning team. No luck, so far. Either for the Bengals, common sense, or for the taxpayers of Cincinnati.
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