09/19/2002 2:16 pm ET
New Reds ballpark will be intimate
Fans will be closer to the game at GABP
By Chris Haft / MLB.com
Joe Nuxhall has seen this before.
"When we moved from Crosley Field, we heard that everything's going to be more convenient, fan-friendly and so forth at Riverfront Stadium," said Nuxhall, the popular Reds broadcaster and former pitcher. "Now, we're saying the same thing about Great American Ball Park, which is true."
In this sense, history is repeating itself. As the Reds approach their final weekend at Cinergy Field, formerly Riverfront Stadium, the organization already has begun trumpeting the virtues of Great American Ball Park, which they'll occupy next season.
Yet so much about the new park will be entirely new for Cincinnati fans, who have known only Cinergy/Riverfront and Crosley Field as the homes of the Reds since 1912.
Reds CEO John Allen summarized Great American's primary feature succinctly: "In one word," said Allen, "intimacy."
Consistent with ballparks built since 1990, Great American's seating capacity will be 42,076, compared with 55,000 at the original Riverfront Stadium.
Allen pointed out that at Cinergy Field, fans sitting in the first row have been perched five feet above the playing surface. At Great American, the first row rests six inches above the field.
"That just ripples and dominoes all the way back up," Allen said. "That was done intentionally. When we sat down way back in 1999 to work on the design phase, we said we wanted an intimate ballpark where fans could really get into a game."
Getting around should be much easier for fans, too. Most of the concourses at GABP will be 40 feet wide, compared with 20 feet in Cinergy's green level.
While GABP will include many modern features, such as state-of-the-art advertising panels, cup holders at every seat and increased bathroom and concession facilities, it'll also pay homage to the illustrious past of baseball's first professional franchise.
Crosley Terrace, the main entry plaza, will be inspired by the Reds' long-gone ballpark. It will be distinguished by statues of four of the team's most popular stars: Nuxhall, Frank Robinson, Ted Kluszewski and Ernie Lombardi. The main scoreboard will include a replica of Crosley Field's Longines clock. The Reds Hall of Fame, due to open in 2004, will be located on GABP's west side. Its exterior will feature a rose garden located on the site where Pete Rose's record-breaking single landed on Sept. 11, 1985 [ 56K | 300K], the day he eclipsed Ty Cobb's all-time hit mark.
Another difference: While Cinergy Field looked almost indistinguishable from other multi-purpose facilities, such as Philadelphia's Veterans Stadium and Pittsburgh's Three Rivers Stadium, GABP appears bound to possess a definite Cincinnati flavor.
Just as Pacific Bell Park in San Francisco has its enormous baseball glove 501 feet from home plate and Houston's Minute Maid Park has its train churning high above left field, GABP will have its replica of the "tall stacks" -- smokestacks that serve as reminders of the attractive, historic steamboats that used to roam the Ohio River. This is a popular image in Cincinnati. Every several years, replicas of the "Tall Stacks" ships convene in Cincinnati, prompting huge celebrations that draw hundreds of thousands of spectators.
"With the tie-in to the river, it's appropriate for this ballpark," Allen said.
The ballpark's brick exterior is meant to conjure images of Cincinnati's classic architecture, while the cast stone base suggests the adjacent Roebling Suspension Bridge. GABP's primary structure is composed of painted steel.
The Reds' timetable for occupying GABP will begin Oct. 7, when front-office employees will start occupying the ballpark's administration building. An exciting day is in store about two or three weeks from now, when the first sod will be laid down on the field. The team officially takes possession of GABP next Feb. 1, with construction due to be essentially complete a month later. The Reds plan to schedule a public open house in late March to allow fans to "walk through and kick the tires," as Allen said.
Chances are, they'll find that everything's set for a long ride.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.