Frankly Speaking, the Reds Want No Part of Broadway Commons
John Allen, managing executive of the Cincinnati Reds, was invited to appear on WNKU's March 26 Speaking Frankly program to discuss the team's upcoming season. Frankly, most of the callers wanted to talk about the Reds' position on Broadway Commons. And, frankly, Allen didn't.
Allen explained that the team has been negotiating with county officials for a new stadium at the foot of Main Street bounded by Fort Washington Way, The Crown and Cinergy Field, known as "the Wedge." He said he was "cautiously optimistic" that an agreement of understanding could be worked out in the near future that would set in motion more detailed studies of the Wedge site.
When asked by a caller what his main objections to Broadway Commons were, Allen said the site was too costly -- land needed to be acquired, underground sewer lines rerouted and parking garages built -- and there were no hotels nearby. He also felt the Reds would be unfairly counted on as the catalyst of a neighborhood renaissance in nearby Over-the-Rhine.
"If we were to go (to Broadway Commons), we're being asked to be the economic cornerstone for development of an area that needs economic development," Allen said. "No one has a game plan or economic plan for Broadway Commons."
The caller then asked if Allen would be open to Broadway Commons if all of his cost concerns were addressed and covered by the county and/or city. Allen said no.
Another caller pressed the issue, saying that he and his fellow twentysomethings like to go to bars and restaurants before and after baseball games and that Over-the-Rhine's Main Street district offered the kind of attractions he wanted around a stadium site. Allen responded that he saw bars and restaurants as the Reds' competition.
"What do I survive off of?," Allen asked. "Beverage and food sales (inside the stadium)."
Answering another caller's question about whether the Reds felt any obligation to help promote downtown redevelopment because they were using public funds for their stadium, Allen obviously was growing impatient with the topic.
"What the Cincinnati Reds bring to this community far outweighs the sales tax that was passed in terms of economic benefit to the city...," he said. "We provide a tremendous amount to the city and the county just by existing and being here."
When the next caller asked that, if bars and restaurants were the Reds' competition, what then was planned for the entertainment district around the Wedge site, Allen said enough was enough.
"This is not a Broadway Commons argument," he said, disregarding the question. "We've been through all that. We're headed in all likelihood for baseball on Main Street, and I don't have any more to comment on that. I don't know what else we can say."
After a break, Allen went on to discuss Barry Larkin's injury problems, the Reds' upcoming promotional events and his own future with the team.
The irony in Allen's remarks, of course, is that we haven't "been through all that." There has been no credible public debate over the issue of stadium sites. None whatsoever.
Many recall the infamous meeting at the Albert B. Sabin Convention Center in November 1996 -- the last public meeting held to address stadium development -- when an official of county consultant Urban Design Associates declared that he saw no consensus on stadium sites. Of course, the vast majority of meeting attendees had expressed support for Broadway Commons. Since that meeting, for the last year and a half, the strategy employed by Reds stadium negotiators -- team officials, county officials and business leaders -- has been to avoid public input and dismiss any public opinion that arises while simultaneously claiming to be representing the people's best interests.
Reflecting on this dismissal of public input, Cincinnati City Councilman Todd Portune said the whole process of stadium siting has disgusted him.
"It's a classic example of the arrogance of placing personal interests ahead of the will and the interests of the public," Portune told CityBeat. "Not a single credible organization or urban planner has endorsed a river site for the Reds."
Allen's appearance on Speaking Frankly seemed to perfectly sum up the arrogance of power described by Portune: Shut up and leave us alone. We know what we're doing.