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Issue Date: July 2009

Got Game?

Lindsey Hoeppner
Like most of us, Barbara Oney and T.L. Champion have grown tired of the fastest-dying-city reputation Cleveland has garnered as young people pack up and move away.

But their solution, GotCityGame — an online game show that has a great grand prize, offers viewers the chance to win college scholarships and uses downtown as a backdrop — may be the most original weapon ever devised to fight it.

Champion and Oney, both marketing professionals, are using elements from several reality television series for GotCityGame. Like The Real World, the show is set in a city. Like The Amazing Race, contestants face off in challenges. And like American Idol, viewers vote for their favorite players via text message.

At the end of the eight-week season, the team with the most points (a mix of votes and points earned by answering Cleveland trivia during the series), will receive the “Downtown for a Year” grand prize, which includes a free lease on a downtown apartment, tickets to sporting events, restaurant gift certificates and more.

Cuyahoga Community College will help produce the show and has even built production of GotCityGame into its course curriculum. The show will be partially financed with a $30,000 grant from the Civic Innovation Lab. Other funding will come from sponsorships and Web advertising.

Oney and Champion cast Jason Zone Fisher, the son of Ohio Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher, to host the show after meeting him at a screening of his documentary, Swing State.

“He has a great energy about him,” says Champion, ”and you can see it on the screen.”

As a Cleveland native, Fisher is looking forward to promoting the city. “The show will help prove to people that there are plenty of reasons to stay in Cleveland.”

Casting begins next month, and the show will premiere this winter. For information, visit

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