Sunday, March 30, 2003

Architects see crowd settle in

Then tackle minor issues of congestion

By John Erardi
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Joe Spear looked at the sumptuous spread in the Riverfront Club at Great American Ball Park and said: "That looks great, but what I need is a hot dog. I'm at the ballpark!"

Spend a few innings touring with Spear, the principal architect on Great American for HOK Sport + Venue + Arena, and you know the hot dog line isn't for effect.

He's just like the famous actor Humphrey Bogart, whose own line about culinary preferences adorns the window on the back of the luxury suites visible from the third-base concourse at Great American.

"A hot dog at the ballpark is better than a steak at the Ritz."

Spear is a ballpark lover. So is Clark Mleynek, lead project architect. They're having a blast watching people enjoy their new yard. "This is the fun part, seeing the ballpark come to life," Spear says.

"We've been working on this project for four years," Mleynek says. "It's wonderful to hear the sounds of the ballpark."

They didn't like what they saw Friday night when fans clogged the Crosley Terrace main entrance. But by Saturday, that serious kink had been alleviated, just by putting the attendants a bit out front of the ticket scanner to get things started. It was an operational thing, but the architects still checked it out - as they did the fact that the first-base concourse was congested.

Spear and Mleynek figured it might be a problem until a concourse is added on the other side of the concession stands next year when the Main Street thoroughfare is completed. They saw some places where portable food carts could be moved to open up some space.

It was impressive to see so many fans standing and talking in spots with river and skyline views, and they weren't even paying attention to the game - confirmation of how well this park opens to those views.

The Enquirer's tour with Spear and Mleynek didn't include the sitting and standing spots beyond the outfield walls. They'd have found happy fans in the standing-room-only spot above the right-field foul line, but unhappy fans standing behind cage-like fences above the bullpens. The face-high fence imposes separation and impedes view of the game.

"This could be a great spot, but with the fence you don't feel like you're part of the ballpark," said fan Eric Brooks, 29, of Pleasant Ridge.

From a son to his father

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