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'Premier' PBS on scouting trail

6-28-02, 5:15 p.m.


With Billy Graham and the Buckeyes on stage during the next three months, the Bengals' vision of a community showplace is coming into sharper focus as Paul Brown Stadium officials begin to court concerts and other events heading into the building's third year.

With the four-day Graham mission girding for this weekend's finale, the stadium is proving to be the versatile venue the club had in mind when it sought to move from Cinergy Field, and not just a place to house 10 games a year. On Sept. 21, the hugely popular Ohio State program plays the University of Cincinnati in the 60th anniversary season Paul Brown coached the Buckeyes to a national title.

"No question this is a premier facility. It's very user friendly," said Jeff Anderson, director of the Graham mission. "The amenities, like the locker rooms and the club lounges have been a real plus and really fit our needs. The newest facilities are, of course, the best. The way the concessions interface with catering has been very effective."

Eric Brown, the stadium manager, said his group plans to sit down with concert promoters in the bid to secure a show for maybe as early as next spring. Stadium officials are also looking at other religious missions, as well as a possible repeat

of last year's high school playoff game.

"If there are some local schools that could be tied in, we would love to do that again," Brown said. "We're discussing ways to get more events. We're seeing now how adaptable the stadium is to a big event. The time to do it, obviously, is in the spring when there aren't any conflicts with football."

The major problem is the condition of the grass field, which may need to be totally re-sodded after the mission ends Sunday. But Brown said stadium officials are coping with the fact that maximum use means frequent re-sodding.

That's a problem that should at least be partially alleviated with stadium groundskeeper Doug Bradley developing his own sod farm near Spinney Field, the Bengals' old practice home. That would cut costs associated with trucking sod from other farms.

At least 25 percent of the field figured to have died earlier this week during the construction of the stage, and there is also the nightly traffic of thousands walking across the field, which is covered by a woven plastic tarp.

But Brown reported Friday that the field has responded well despite Thursday night's rain.

"Doug crawled under the cover to check and he says it's acting more like a growth tarp," Brown said.

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