Alternate History Series: The Proposed Pete Rose Way Canal

July 21, 2018

Pete Rose Way Canal

Few details exist of this fanciful idea, beyond an artist’s rendering from the late ‘90s, but it was quite a concept. It was partially inspired, it seems, by San Antonio’s famous River Walk, which was initially inspired by a flood, something we’re quite familiar with in these parts.

In 1921, a devastating flood swept through San Antonio, killing 50. To prevent another such tragedy, a plan was developed to install two dams as well as other flood control systems on  the San Antonio River. Part of this plan included bypassing a pronounced, nearly perfectly-square bend in the river, covering it, and making it a giant storm sewer.

The dams were built but when it came time to pave the bend, a new plan was brought forth, which became the River Walk. Most of the construction and redevelopment came as part of the Depression-era Work Progress Administration (WPA) of the 1930s..

The River Walk's European-style cafes, shops, bars, and restaurants became an economic engine for San Antonio. Today, the area annually draws more than 7 million visitors who spend almost $800 million.

After voters in Cincinnati approved the sales tax increase in 1996 to build Paul Brown Stadium, Great American Ballpark, and The Banks, many ideas were proposed for the area between and around the stadiums. This one sought to place a canal along Pete Rose Way similar to the River Walk.

Though called the Pete Rose Way Canal in local lore, the artist rendering from the time seems to place the waterway mostly on Second Street. Old Riverfront Stadium/Cinergy Field can be seen to the right, as the canal appears to flows down toward Broadway and then, it would seem, into Pete Rose Way in front of the arena.

A canal in that area wouldn’t have been new as the old Miami and Erie Canal once flowed where Eggleston Street is today. It emptied into the Ohio River immediately to the west of the Dan C. Beard/I-471 bridge.  

As late as 1997, the Ohio River left its banks and essentially turned Pete Rose Way into a canal at no cost, but unlike San Antonio’s River Walk, this system probably would not have addressed that issue.

Also, the configuration of Great American Ballpark made this idea impractical as a segment of Pete Rose Way was removed between the arena and Paul Brown Stadium. Additionally, with Ft. Washington Way still dividing the city from the river, a moat seemed less appealing.

By the time the Central Riverfront Urban Design Master Plan,  a riveting tale, was released in 2000, all notions of a canal and river walk were gone. Most of what is in that plan has been developed, though.

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