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Paul Brown Stadium

Aerial View
Copyright 2004 by Brad Geller and Aerial Views Publishing

  Venue Particulars  
Address One Paul Brown Stadium
Cincinnati, OH 45202
Phone (513) 455-4800
Seating Weather
Satellite View
Bengals Gear
  Venue Resources  
Hotels, Dining & Deals in Cincinnati

  The Facility  
Date Opened August 2000
Hamilton County
(Cincinnati Bengals)
Surface FieldTurf
Cost of Construction $385 million
Stadium Financing Half-Cent Sales Tax.
Stadium Architect NBBJ
  Other Facts  
Tenants Cincinnati Bengals
(NFL) (2000-Present)
Population Base 1,000,000
On Site Parking 5,000
Nearest Airport Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International (CVG)
Retired Numbers #54 Bob Johnson

Capacity 65,535
Average Ticket $55.72
Fan Cost Index (FCI) $317.39
The Team Marketing Report FCI includes: four average-price tickets; four small soft drinks; two small beers; four hot dogs; two game programs; parking; and two adult-size caps.
Luxury Suites 114 Suites
Club Seats 7,620
  Attendance History  
Season  Total  Capacity Change
1993 353,273 73% -14.5%
1994 415,638 86% 17.7%
1995 385,071 80% -7.4%
1996 382,774 79% -0.6%
1997 439,831 91% 14.9%
1998 444,335 92% 0%
1999 404,679 84% -8.92%
2000 469,992 89.6% 16.1%

2001 2002 2003 2004
453,449 422,235 479,488 524,248

2005 2006 2007 2008
526,469 527,870 526,320 516,663

2009 2010 2011 2012
512,032 482,917 394,009 489,504

2013 2014 2015 2016
506,377 485,628 491,118 423,583
1992-1999 - Attendance at Cinergy Field (Riverfront Stadium).

Sources: Mediaventures

Paul Brown Stadium, the new home of the Cincinnati Bengals NFL team, opened in August 2000.

The stadium project on Cincinnati's river front employed as many as 1,000 workers daily during construction up until June 2000 when the Bengals' coaches and staff moved into their new 65,600-seat stadium. In just under two years, the 40-acre site was transformed into the Bengals' third home since the team's inception in 1968.

One of the project's claims to fame is that it was one of the safest of its kind. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the number of job-site injuries and illnesses incurred during construction of the stadium was significantly lower than the national median average for such projects.


The stadium site is approximately five blocks west of the current Cinergy Field. Pete Rose Way borders it on the north, Mehring Way on the south, Elm Street on the east and Central Avenue on the west. The southern border of the stadium will be one block from the Ohio River, and will be connected to the riverfront with a public park.


The stadium's asymmetrical, open-ended design offers views of the downtown skyline and the riverfront. In addition, almost 70% of the seats are along the sidelines providing close-to-the-action sight lines – even from upper-level luxury boxes and low-tiered end zones.

There are 70,000 seats over three levels at the sidelines, with 100 luxury boxes stacked in two tiers. All luxury suites and 7,500 club seats are planned for the sidelines.

Moody/Nolan was the associate architect and engineer working with NBBJ Sports & Entertainment. Moody/Nolan's work involved designing all concession facilities, club seats, suite areas and NFL offices, as well as civil engineering of the site.

Paul Brown Stadium


Getz Ventures managed the project with the construction work being carried out by a joint venture of Turner/Barton Malow/D.A.G., which was set up specifically for the Paul Brown Stadium.

Dugan & Meyers Construction Co. and Baker Concrete Construction Inc., in Monroe, were awarded the 31.4 million ($44 million) contract for the stadium. Baker carried out the concrete work for the stadium's superstructure and Dugan & Meyers provided the management services.


The roof is in the shape of a swoosh, the signature on the Paul Brown Stadium. It is made of brown fiberglass fabric,with two pieces of arching canopy running atop the upper deck on each side.

750t of steel, which was shipped in 40ft sections, holds the canopy in place on the football stadium's upper deck. The steel also secures a catwalk, lights and a portion of the stadium's sound system.

The canopy, which is made of a Teflon-coated fibreglass called Sheerfill, protects a few thousand people in the upper deck from rain, sun and snow.

There is a continuous bank of lights hidden beneath the canopy, making the fabric glow at night even when the stadium is empty.

The 4.1 million ($5.7 million) canopy, including the steel, was installed by Birdair. The company has installed the same material as the roof of the Georgia Dome and the Millennium Dome in London. It is 70ft wide in the centre and tapers off to about 45ft wide on the ends, which jut out beyond the edges of the seating bowl.

The fabric was brown when it went up but has turned white after being bleached by the sun for a few months. As it is Teflon-coated, dirt and grime will not stick to it. The canopy is designed to last 25–30 years.


Each of the 114 suites has retractable glass windows along with twelve spacious fixed stadium seats and four elevated seats at a drink rail with a view of the game.


The new stadium honours the late Paul Brown, the pro football Hall of Famer who brought pro football to Cincinnati in 1968 as Bengals founder, general manager and head coach.


There are two end-zone scoreboards, both with video capability designed by Acoustic Dimensions. The company's design brief for the stadium was to include acoustic design, the sound system, scoreboards, large screen displays, distributed video (MATV) systems, broadcast cabling and a coaching video system along with audio and video systems for private suites, restaurants, clubs and concourses.

The system features the largest video display boards ever implemented in an NFL stadium, designed to work in tandem with a distributed audio system delivering extraordinary low-frequency reinforcement backed by a host of ancillary systems for the clubs, MATV, team administrative areas and more.

The solution also included broadcast booths and the scoreboard video control room. The control room is capable of producing game-day video, commercials, and coaches shows.


Cincinnati Bengals manage the Paul Brown Stadium on behalf of Hamilton County. Suzanne Burke, director of administrative services/director of stadium development for the county authority, oversees the stadium.


Directions: From I-75 Southbound, use exits at Freeman Avenue and 2nd Street; from I-75 Northbound, use exits at 2nd Street and 5th Street in Ohio; from I-71 Southbound, use exits at 3rd Street or Gilbert Avenue; from I-471 Northbound, use exits at 3rd Street or 6th Street.

PARKING: South of Third Street adjacent to the stadium is sold out with pre-paid season parking. North of Third Street ranges from $10-$20. West of Central Avenue is limited game-by-game parking.

Metro has various shuttle pickups throughout the Cincinnati area that drop off at the Riverfront Transit Center underneath Second Street between Elm and Race Streets. Round trip is $5, one way $3.

TANK has various shuttle pickups throughout Northern Kentucky. Each trip is $3 for adults, $1 for children.

B&B Riverboats runs a $2 round-trip ride from Covington Landing. Queen City Riverboats has a $3 round-trip ticket from Hooters and The Beer Sellar in Newport.

Location: The stadium is approximately five blocks west of Cinergy Field. It is bordered by Pete Rose Way on the north, Mehring Way on the south, Elm Street on the east and Central Avenue on the west. The southern border of the stadium is one block from the Ohio River, and will be connected to the riverfront with a public park.

Dimensions: The stadium covers approximately 22 acres and is 157 feet high.

Seating Capacity: The stadium has 65,535 seats on three levels, including 7,600 club seats and 114 private suites.

Playing Surface: Natural turf, heated to extend growing season and prevent frozen field.

Private Suites: Each of the 114 suites features retractable glass windows, allowing fans the option to watch in climate-controlled comfort or to bring in the outdoor experience. Suite holders enjoy premium parking, an exclusive entrance, specialized catering, personalized concierge service and elegant interior designs. Suites include 12 spacious fixed stadium seats and four elevated seats at a drink rail with a view of the game.

Club Seating: Club patrons enjoy extra-wide, padded seats at the prime football viewing level with in-seat food and beverage service, and access to the Club Level Lounges featuring fine dining as well as prime views of the downtown skyline or riverfront.

Total Enclosed Area: 1,850,000 square feet (over 40 acres)

Fully accessible: Ramps, elevators, escalators, and stairs; Accessible to handicapped individuals.

Scoreboards: Two end-zone scoreboards, both with video capability.
Click Here to Get Your Personalized Scoreboard

Concessions: 56 fixed locations with varied menu themes; a total of 400 points of sale.

Rest Room Facilities: More than 1,200 fixtures, with separate individual family areas.

Team Facilities: Administrative offices, training facility, coaches' offices, meeting rooms.

Adjacent Practice Facility: Two natural turf fields and one artificial turf field.

Retail Sales: Retail store housing NFL merchandise and eight fixed locations for novelty sales plus portable stands.

Design Drawings: Over 1,700 drawings produced by the architects and engineers. Pasted together these would cover almost a half acre.

Reinforced Steel: Over 11,000 tons of steel bars to reinforce the cast in place concrete. If the average bar was one inch in diameter, this would stretch for 1,560 miles.

* Cast in Place Concrete: About 95,000 cubic yards of concrete were poured.
* Structural Steel: Over 9,100 tons of structural steel.
* Doors: Over 1,200 individual doors.
* Electrical wiring: Over 330 miles of electrical wire were be installed.
* Drywall: Over 1,438,000 square feet of drywall.
* Landscaping: Over 8,000 trees and shrubs were planted around the stadium.

Paul Brown Stadium
Image of Paul Brown Stadium by

By: Andrew Kulyk & Peter Farrell

Paul Brown Stadium Ranking by USRT
Architecture 9
Concessions 6
Scoreboard 8
Ushers 4
Fan Support 5
Location 7.5
Banners/History 5
Entertainment 5
Concourses/Fan Comfort 7.5
Bonus: Tailgate Scene 2
Bonus: USRT Assist 2
Bonus: Jungle Zone 1
Total Score 62
November 5, 2000
September 19, 2004
September 18, 2005
- Paul Brown Stadium is set on the Cincinnati waterfront, just adjacent to their new Great American Ballpark (what a terrific corporate name!). The two new stadiums wanchor a whole new waterfront redevelopment which will include new retail, housing, parkland and the National Underground Freedom Center, a world class museum celebrating the city's role as a transit point for runaway slaves during the 19th century.

The stadium seats almost 66,000 and is unmistakably striking in its asymmetrical architecture. Unlike Cinergy Field, you can enjoy sweeping views of the city scape from almost anywhere in the building - whether it be the city skyline at one end or the river and Covington Kentucky from the other. When we visited there was still plenty of road construction going on around the stadium, but it was still easy to navigate, and plenty of tailgating going on (though not in size and scope to that here in Buffalo).

Outside the stadium is a huge plaza area, and there was plenty of entertainment and events going on outside.. also the Bengals set up concessions and points of sale outside the stadium, as well as ample tables and chairs so fans could enjoy a pregame snack or a beverage and just sit and enjoy the music and people watch. Being a sun drenched 60 degree day, we took opportunity to enjoy the ambience.

The Bowl
Once inside we were impressed at the canyon wide concourses, the many ramps and staircases and escalators to the upper level (named the "canopy level" yes there is a canvas canopy covering a portion of the top stands). There are gigantic jumbotrons at each end zone, with one of the jumbotrons being off center to add to the asymmetrical look. A huge team store is located at the south end zone, and all concession stands have a scrolling message board above it, although they seemed to be used for advertising only and not for game/score information. On the sideline balconies were LED sideline boards, displaying not only stats and information but crystal clear video graphics and cool advertisements.

Retired Numbers/Banners
None at all displayed inside the bowl, but there are huge murals of past Bengals greats along the sideline plaza level concourses.

Our one criticism of this venue was its lack of color - the entire building on the outside and much of the inside is a drab gray or plaster/white, and the walls are screaming for some colorful ads, banners, and team color black/orange accents. The building itself is so beautiful, but there is a compelling need for a stadium interior designer to come in and finish the job. From what we were told of the reputation of Bengals president Mike Brown, he is not the most civic minded/fan friendly type, so that is not about to happen anytime soon.

Things that Caught our Eye
Send this one straight to the HR department - the team salutes employees of the month with their names and photos on the jumbotron during a TV timeout. Season ticket holders can nominate a particularly friendly usher, vendor, security guard etc. Apparently the staff there really competes for this honor!

Already this new venue is a terrific football experience - with a little spit and polish, completion of the waterfront plan and maybe a competitive team, this could be one of the best venues in the NFL.

January 22, 2009
Copyright 2009 MediaVentures

Cincinnati, Ohio - The Cincinnati Bengals have made their last rent payment for Paul Brown Stadium, and in 10 more years taxpayers will start paying part of the salaries of tomorrow's Ocho Cincos and Carson Palmers.

Hamilton County Commission President David Pepper says that's a problem, and wants help from the Bengals or the NFL.

But Bengals owner Mike Brown said the team is being scapegoated again.

With county budget deficits causing cuts in jail space, prisoner releases and public safety concerns, Pepper said he's considering a plea to the NFL for a bailout.

"It may be a Don Quixote mission, but it's worth raising," he said. "It's a bleak contrast. We have this first-rate stadium on the river, and 10 blocks north we have an under-funded county government."

Brown replied, "I'm surprised at the remarkable staying power of the political arguments around this project. There have been many attempts to scapegoat this situation for political reasons. I just think it's odd how it has cropped up here."

Pepper had no specific plans but said the county may try to meet with the Bengals. "It would be nice to get some kind of relief and sit down and work it out."

Hamilton County residents voted 61 percent to 39 percent to pass a half-cent sales tax in 1996 to build a new stadium and keep the Bengals. The county and Bengals then negotiated a lease. The Bengals' final lease payment under the May 29, 1997 contract was paid this month.

The annual rent payments started at $1.7 million in 2001, then dropped by $100,000 each following year, for a final payment of $900,000 on Jan. 10, 2009. Payments were $11.7 million, but about $3 million for two years (2002 and 2003) was not paid, while a lawsuit by the IRS involving the Bengals and the county was in dispute.

After 2018, taxpayers start paying the Bengals. The contract caps the county's first payment at $2.67 million, then allows payments to increase 5 percent each year.

For the nine years ending in 2027, the contract requires the county to pay the Bengals "for any and all expenses of any nature whatsoever incurred by the Team relating to the Stadium Complex for the immediately preceding lease year."

In other words, the county pays all stadium costs - maintenance, cleanup, utilities, repairs. One clause in the contract requires the county to add any improvements that are adopted by at least 14 other NFL teams, including new turf, new video screens, new sound systems or even "holographic replays."

Brown said the contract Hamilton County got is better than many NFL stadium deals.

In all, the team contributed about $40 million, the Bengals' Blackburn said. The difference is that the county wanted the team's rent up front, because it was facing two ballpark projects, for the Bengals and Reds, he said.

Brown said his team's gross annual revenue is about $200 million, while teams such as the New York Giants or Washington Redskins bring in up to $350 million.

As player salaries rise and ticket sales stay flat or decline during bad years, like the latest losing season, the Bengals will need help to keep up with other teams, Brown said. "That's exactly why the deal was structured the way it was," he said. (Cincinnati Enquirer)

February 5, 2009
Copyright 2009 MediaVentures

Cincinnati, Ohio - The losing season of 2008 hasn't been tough on just the Bengals. The team's fans - along with ticket brokers - who had financially invested in the Bengals' success are feeling let down now that their seat license contracts are looking less like blue-chip stocks and more like junk bonds.

In less than two years, the average street price of a Paul Brown Stadium Charter Ownership Agreement sold on the trading exchange,, dropped from $2,783 to $536. Charter Ownership Agreements, or COAs, aren't season tickets. They are merely the rights to buy season tickets for individual seats at Paul Brown Stadium.

Ownership of a COA has been a season ticket requirement since the stadium opened in 2000, but the contracts can be resold at market price, giving season-ticket holders the option of using the Bengals success - or lack thereof - as an investment tool.

With the arrival of coach Marvin Lewis in 2003 , Bengals seats became such a hot item that a season-ticket waiting list developed, driving up the secondary market price for COAs, which have a face value of $300-$1,500 depending on the seat location.

By February 2007, a pair of section 217 seats sold for $8,000 at Similar COAs today (section 218) are listed for $600, following a 4-11-1 season.

"It's definitely a buying opportunity right now with the Bengals," said Kyle Burks, president of "You're not going to see COAs get much cheaper than this. The majority of fans purchase COAs as an emotional purchase and don't really care about appreciation in value. But, if you buy now on Bengals COAs, you're probably going to see a significant increase in value over the next four years."

At the other end of the market are the Pittsburgh Steelers who are playing in the AFC Championship game Sunday. A pack of four Steelers seat licenses recently sold for $91,000, and the average Steelers seat license price in December was $8,970.

The Bengals realize fans are frustrated and financially squeezed. So with a Jan. 30 deadline approaching for club seat renewals, the team is offering a sort of bailout. COA holders of club seats, which feature access to club level lounges, need only to renew their tickets for two more years, which might be welcome relief for fans whose lengthy club leases just expired.

If enough fans are convinced to hold on to their COAs by renewing season tickets, the Bengals could continue their streak of 44 straight sold-out games at Paul Brown Stadium. But Burks said the market price for upper deck COAs are especially low right now because so many fans are trying to sell them, creating a case of too much supply for the demand. (Cincinnati Enquirer)

July 23, 2009
Copyright 2009 MediaVentures

Cincinnati, Ohio - Hamilton County Commissioners are concerned that the fund which provides money to support stadiums for the Cincinnati Bengals and Reds could go bankrupt as soon as next year.

A consultant's report from February indicates the fund will have a $4.7 million deficit next year, which skyrockets to a $55 million deficit by 2032. But that assumes stadium sales-tax revenue falls only 1 percent. So far this year, those numbers have declined an average of more than 7 percent.

Right now, the county has no plan to deal with the problem. Officials plan to have some options over the next month.

A deficit means that the county wouldn't have enough money to pay the many organizations that it is obligated to pay out of that fund. Organizations such as the National Football League's Bengals, Major League Baseball's Reds, Cincinnati Public Schools and a tax credit to county property owners.

The fund is so short that there is not enough money for the property tax credit this year. The deficit has long been predicted, but the recession-driven sales tax plunge has moved up the doomsday.

The problem: the fund's financing plan was based on economic assumptions that are faltering. The plan assumed a 3 percent growth in sales tax between 2000 and 2032. In the 1990s, that was considered conservative.

The reality is collections averaged only 1 percent growth between 2000 and 2008. And that was before the recession.

Voters approved a half-cent sales tax increase in 1996 to pay for the two stadiums and a property tax rollback.

The county issued $694 million in debt for construction of the Paul Brown Stadium, Great American Ball Park and other river-front improvements.

July 30, 2009
Copyright 2009 MediaVentures

Hamilton County commissioners have voted to use $5.5 million from an emergency fund to pay for this year's property tax rollback because the stadium tax account has run out of money. The stadium fund is made up of sales tax revenue. Voters passed a sales tax increase in 1996 to pay for new stadiums for the Cincinnati Bengals and the Reds. About 30 percent of the proceeds go back to property owners in the form of a credit on their tax bills. The rest goes to pay stadium construction debt and cover the leases with the teams. Some money also goes to the schools. The stadium fund is about to go into the red, mostly because sales tax revenue has failed to keep pace with projections.

September 3, 2009
Copyright 2009 MediaVentures

Cincinnati, Ohio - A $13 million deficit could face Hamilton County taxpayers next year to cover the debt for building Paul Brown Stadium for the Bengals and the Reds' Great American Ballpark.

Low tax collections have endangered the fund set aside to pay for the venues' debt. Officials are projecting a $13.2 million deficit by the end of next year based on an assumed two percent decline in sales tax revenue.

Now the cash-strapped county has to figure out how to plug that gap, which could grow to $92 million by 2014 if nothing is done. Long term, the county needs to find an additional $30 million a year in revenue, or reduce expenses by that amount in the fund in order to stay in the black, said Christian Sigman, assistant county administrator.

The three county commissioners made it clear that reducing or eliminating the property tax rollback - in other words, raising property taxes - will be the last option they will consider. Instead, they hope negotiations with other stakeholders - the teams and Cincinnati Public Schools - will produce enough revenue to bridge the gap.

Currently the rollback accounts for about 30 percent of stadium fund spending - or an estimated $17.5 to $18 million next year. It translates into a $55 to $65 credit on the tax bill of the owner of a $100,000 home.

The rollback promise helped the county sell the stadium tax package to voters. They approved a half cent sales tax increase in 1996 to pay for new stadiums for the Bengals and Reds.

The stadium tax is expected to generate about $62 million this year, compared to $65 million in 2008. Next year it is expected to only bring in about $58 million.

The financial model for the stadium fund assumed sales tax would grow 3 percent a year - which was a conservative estimate during the 1990s. But revenue has averaged only 1.65 percent growth since 1996. It dropped into negative territory five of the last nine years.

The administration will present recommendations to commissioners in November about how to fill the gap. Commissioners must vote on the 2010 rollback by the end of the year.

December 3, 2009
Copyright 2009 MediaVentures

Cincinnati, Ohio - Hamilton County is considering borrowing $5.5 million from an emergency stabilization fund and delay money due to schools to help make up for a deficit in the fund that pays for construction debt on stadiums for the Cincinnati Bengals and Reds.

The Cincinnati school board agreed to delay a $5 million payment in lieu of taxes so the money could be used for the debt. That money will be due in 2011 along with repayment of funds to the stabilization account.

Another $1.7 million for the $13.8 million deficit would come from the following: capping the use of outside counsel to $500,000, working with the sports teams on concessions, and making additional cuts in the county's general fund in yet-to-be-specified ways. County officials want to avoid any personnel or public safety cuts.

Some additional money will also come from changes and settlements on riverfront projects.

County commissioners said they also plan to come up with a long-term solution to the stadium fund deficit within the next few weeks.

The commissioners came up with the plan after deciding not to eliminate a property tax credit promised to residents.

December 17, 2009
Copyright 2009 MediaVentures

Cincinnati, Ohio - Hamilton County thought it had figured out how to solve its short-term stadium financing problems, but the local school district has put up a road block.

The county asked taxing districts, including the schools, to allow it to delay a $5 million payment so the money could be used to pay for stadium debt. The sales tax revenue needed to fund the payments has come in under budget and the county is scrambling to pull together the needed cash.

Commissioners have said tax increases are not an option.

Long-term fixes to the deficit -which will grow exponentially after next year - could include tax increases or fees on riverfront-related purchases like food, beer, or even tickets. The latter idea has tentative support from two of the three commissioners, but would need the approval of legislators and the sports teams.

The immediate issue of next year's deficit, however, remains unresolved.

Assistant Administrator Christian Sigman gave assurances that the problem won't force the county into bankruptcy or cause it to default on bills.

"The school board didn't set us on the course of certain bankruptcy, it just makes it the job that much harder," said Sigman, who oversees the budget office. "We'll make it work."

If the county borrows from its reserve fund - analogous to a savings account - its credit rating would plummet affecting its ability to borrow money.

If it raids its general fund - which it just slashed by $30 million to balance the 2010 budget - that would require taking scant resources away from basic operations like public safety.

February 4, 2010
Copyright 2010 MediaVentures

Cincinnati, Ohio - The Cincinnati Bengals have offered to take over responsibility for $2 million in repairs to Paul Brown Stadium to help Hamilton County deal with a tight budget. The team has offered to replace carpet inside the stadium's club level area, convert to an electronic ticketing system and put in a new playing field. Those improvements are the county's responsibility under current lease terms.

"Recognizing the history and current economic climate, we will try to play a role in an effort to help build an improved relationship between the two organizations (the club and the county) that can better serve our community," Bengals vice president Troy A. Blackburn wrote to Thompson. County Commission President David Pepper said the county approached the Bengals and Reds and asked for their help in solving the stadium fund shortage, expected to be $13 million to $14 million in each of the next two years before escalating.

Commissioners are reviewing the team's letter to decide what steps to take. County commissioners say one of the concessions appears to allow the Bengals to end the lease - and potentially leave Cincinnati - in 2017. That's nearly 10 years earlier than the current lease allows. The Bengals, however, told the media and commissioners that they are not asking to get out of the lease early. The paragraph in question simply solidifies the lease as it currently stands, until 2016, according to the team.

Starting in 2017, the annual lease would become a "team option." According to the section of the lease referenced in the letter, that means the Bengals would have the option of extending the lease as-is for two-year increments. The commissioners took this paragraph to mean that the Bengals could decide not to extend the lease and leave town. The team told commissioners the offer does not allow the team to leave early, Pepper said.

No matter how the offer is read, the Bengals' concessions still won't generate enough revenue to fix county's stadium fund. That means the county still have a lot of money to come up with before this problem is solved. One option that has been ruled out is a tax on Bengals' tickets. The county can't levy additional taxes ticket sales or other Bengals-related items, according to the proposal.

In the letter, Blackburn said the Bengals' offer of assistance would "total roughly $40 million" over the life of the lease, which ends after the 2026 NFL season.

As part of its $40 million, the Bengals would relieve the county of its obligation to make "out-year payments" of roughly $2.5 million to $2.7 million a year for the final nine years of the lease.

The Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office, as well as outside counsel, are evaluating the Bengals' offer and are coming up with a response, Pepper said.

"My overall view is that this is the first time we've had any dialogue that might help solve our stadium fund problem," said Pepper. He said that if the Bengals had asked for an option to leave earlier than 2026, it would not be accepted.

The Bengals would also like to get back the stadium suite that now belongs to the county and be able to re-sell it, which would possibly bring them in an additional $70,000 to $80,000 annually. The club wants to gain revenue from other events held in the stadium, primarily the Macy's Music Festival, of which the Bengals are a sponsor.

The recession has hurt the stadium fund, which used revenue from a 1996 half-cent sales tax increase to build and maintain Paul Brown Stadium and Great American Ball Park.

A consultant's report last year indicated that the fund would have a $4.7 million deficit this year and could balloon to $55 million by 2032. Collections averaged just a 1 percent increase between 2000 and 2008, and those were before the recession.

June 10, 2010
Copyright 2010 MediaVentures

Cincinnati, Ohio - Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann is proposing cutting money for indigent health care to raise money to meet a shortfall in funds needed to pay the debt on Paul Brown Stadium and the Great American Ballpark.

He proposed erasing a portion of the county's property tax rollback beginning in 2012. In exchange, beginning that year he wants to reduce the indigent health care levy by 45 percent - cutting $22 million the levy funnels to University Hospital every year.

The plan raises $6 million a year needed to pay for the stadiums while being tax neutral for homeowners, he said. Commercial property owners - who now pay the indigent care levy but don't enjoy the rollback - will see a drop in the taxes.

"This is not an easy decision," Hartmann said. "I don't think any of the three (commissioners) of us think this is easy." He pointed out that residents of Ohio's other major counties, like Franklin and Cuyahoga, do not tax themselves to pay for hospital care.

The fate of the plan lies with Democratic commissioner David Pepper, who is leaving the commission this year as he runs for state auditor. Pepper's reaction was more tempered, saying he is looking forward to reviewing it and seeing the tax levy review committee analysis of all the proposals.

The third commissioner Todd Portune, is opposed to the idea.

July 1, 2010
Copyright 2010 MediaVentures

Cincinnati, Ohio - The Cincinnati Bengals say Hamilton County officials have not responded to their offer of $40 million in lease concessions to help the struggling government pay for its debt on Paul Brown Stadium, despite a June 30 deadline set by the county for a response, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer.

A lawyer for the Bengals told the newspaper the team and the county haven't talked about possible concessions - which all three Hamilton County Commissioners say are a vital part of the plan to plug a deficit projected to top $700 million by 2032 - in 10 months.

The Bengals sent a letter to the county in October offering $40 million in concessions, but asked for a change in the lease that could possibly allow the team to leave in 2017. A Bengals lawyer said the team has never gotten a response to the letter.

County leaders say they are putting together a response and hope to meet with the team July 15, the newspaper reported.

In November commissioners must decide whether to leave in place property tax credits promised when Hamilton County voters approved construction on the stadiums in 1996. At the time, commissioners promised that tax break would never be erased, but the looming debt has put that promise in jeopardy, the newspaper said.

In the letter, the team offered $40 million in concessions. In exchange, beginning in 2017 the annual lease would become a "team option" which could allow the team to leave the county. The team has reportedly said that's not the case.

Commissioners have said they won't agree to anything that would allow the team to leave. The newspaper said the team also asked the county to:
* Relinquish its suite to the team
* Give the team the county's portion of "other event revenue"
* Surrender its small remaining interest in naming rights.

The team says in the letter that it's not appropriate to raise ticket prices "in these economic times.

The stadium problem dates to 1996 and the county's decision to build two riverfront stadiums, then seen as a necessity to keep the Bengals and the Reds in Cincinnati, according to the Enquirer.

That year voters passed a sales tax increase to pay for those stadiums. But it hasn't generated as much money as predicted.

July 15, 2010
Copyright 2010 MediaVentures

Cincinnati, Ohio - The three plans to fund a shortfall in revenues needed to pay the debt on Paul Brown Stadium and the Great American Ballpark pose problems for Hamilton County commissioners, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer.

A plan to take funds from University Hospital would bring in $6 million, but that's still far from the $15 million to $24 million needed, the newspaper said.

Another plan would raise the county sales tax, but it's too late to put that issue on the November ballot, even though that plan would provide up to $60 million a year. A third plan to eliminate part of a property tax rollback, would require a change in state law and an act of the legislature. The plan would also cap the amount of tax breaks any one homeowner could receive.

The analysis is contained in a 15-page report put together by Assistant Hamilton County Administrator Christian Sigman and a study committee. He used 11 criteria - like impact on residents and nonresidents and certainty of execution - to assess the proposals, the newspaper said.

Earlier this year commissioners asked the committee of nine to evaluate and analyze the proposals based on 11 criteria, including fiscal feasibility, whether the plan will solve the problem long term, and whether it singles out a certain group of taxpayers.

Voters in 1996 passed a sales tax increase to pay for Great American Ball Park and Paul Brown Stadium. To offset the half-cent sales tax increase, county commissioners offered a property tax credit that meant the owners of a $100,000 home would get an estimated $52 credit each year on their tax bill. Since then less sales tax revenue than anticipated has come in, creating a deficit, the newspaper said.

The stadium fund deficit for 2011 is estimated at $15 million and increases to $24 million in 2013 and $30 million by 2019. Accumulatively, the deficit is expected to reach $50 million in 2013 and $215 million by 2019, it was reported.

All three plans include concessions from the teams which use the venues. They also include plugging the largest deficits - which come later - with revenue from the casino being built in Cincinnati, the Enquirer reported.

The tax rollback modification plan fared the best in the rough draft report that judges each plan on whether it will be positive, negative or neutral for taxpayers. But the newspaper said committee members pointed out some criteria is more important than others - the impact on taxes, for instance - and discussed ranking them in order of importance in the final report.

In looking at "certainty of execution," Sigman said at the meeting, "They all have warts in one fashion or another, whether it's voter approval, or approval by the general assembly, none of them are a slam dunk, none of them can't be undone. That doesn't make them bad ideas, but it doesn't make them certain."

The report showed that the rollback plan isn't permissible under Ohio Revised Code because the law says a property tax reduction must be a specific percentage each year of real property taxes. The newspaper said that for the plan to work, state legislators would have to change that section of the code to either allow for a maximum amount or allow county commissioners to set multiple levels.

Other criteria pointed out that only the sales tax plan affects people who reside outside the county.

July 29, 2010
Copyright 2010 MediaVentures

Cincinnati, Ohio - Cincinnati Bengals owner Mike Brown said the team has an agreement with the county and it does not plan to alter it because of public budget deficits, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. The comments, made during the Bengals annual pre-training camp media lunch, were a blow to county commissioners, who have long said the teams must help plug a deficit in the fund - a deficit projected to cumulatively top $700 million by 2032, the newspaper said.

Commissioner David Pepper told the Enquirer erasing the deficit is impossible without concessions from the Bengals.

"The numbers don't work if it's just county taxpayers who are forced to foot the bill," Pepper said. "It cannot be solved if everyone doesn't chip in. That's not about politics or philosophy, that's simple math."

Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann, who sat in on a meeting with three members of the team's management and the team's lawyer two weeks ago - but not Brown himself - told the newspaper he was shocked and disappointed.

"I am not giving up that there won't be concessions," Hartmann said. "I don't think Mike Brown's comments are consistent with the team's management who has been meeting with the county."

The Cincinnati Reds have been in talks with the county over concessions. Hartmann said it's not fair for the Reds to make concessions and not the Bengals. He would not say if the Reds have offered concessions, the newspaper said.

"I would prefer a more cooperative approach and at least a willingness to talk," Hartmann said. He pledged to the newspaper that commissioners will fix the deficit "one way or another." In his comments, the newspaper said Brown took the county to task for making poor planning decisions when building the stadium. He said moving the stadium west, to make room for The Banks, cost an additional $150 million.

"That wasn't our decision," said Brown, adding the team asked the county not to do that. "No one ever talks about that," he said. "That too is something is beyond our ability to correct." The three commissioners have separate plans to cover the deficit long term, though they haven't been able to come to an agreement. Each of the plans calls for using casino revenue that will start flowing to the county in 2012, after a downtown casino opens.

The Enquirer said all the plans also call for concessions from the teams.

Negotiations with the Bengals were kick-started last October when the team sent a letter to the county offering $40 million in concessions, but asked for a change in the lease that could possibly allow the team to leave in 2017.

The county didn't respond. Finally, July 15, both sides met. Hartmann would not reveal to the newspaper what was said in that meeting, although both sides left, agreeing to meet again. No date for that meeting was set.

Hamilton County Administrator Patrick Thompson said the county is still talking with the Bengals and that Brown's statements haven't been reflected in those talks.

November 11, 2010
Copyright 2010 MediaVentures

Cincinnati, Ohio - Public records obtained by the Cincinnati Enquirer show holding more events at Paul Brown Stadium and Great America Ballpark could help close a funding gap the county faces in meeting its debt obligations.

The Enquirer public-records request shows that since the two taxpayer-funded stadiums opened a decade ago, only 41 events have been held in them, all at Paul Brown Stadium.

County commissioners tell the newspaper they're frustrated by the inability to raise more money by leasing the venues for outside events, and they're revisiting the idea of hiring marketing experts.

Even that idea could be torpedoed by leases with the Reds and Bengals that give the teams veto power over who can use the stadiums.

"The Bengals' decision-making is predicated solely on what's best for them. Nobody should make any mistake otherwise," Hamilton County Board of Commissioners President Todd Portune said.

More events would mean more cash for the county's ailing stadium fund. The county gets 25 cents for every seat sold at any events at the two stadiums, including Reds and Bengals games.

For other events, the county also gets half the revenue from parking, suite sales and the rental fee. That fee varies. It was waived, for example, for a July 10 monster truck show. Macy's Music Festival pays $100,000 and others pay a percentage of gross ticket sales.

From the 41 events held since the stadiums opened, the county made roughly $1.5 million - an average of $156,393 a year, the Enquirer review shows. All the events have been at Paul Brown, rather than Great American Ball Park. Because of baseball's 81 home games - all of which are during the nicest weather - it's nearly impossible to bring in another event.

Hundreds of smaller events, like corporate meetings, weddings and proms have been held at both stadiums' club lounges. Under the leases, money from those goes to the teams, not the county.

The Bengals declined to tell the Enquirer how much money they make off such events.

The Bengals say it's not for lack of trying that there are so few events at Paul Brown. No one wants to hold an event there.

"What we have found in our experience is that ... Cincinnati is not an A-list city," said Bob Bedinghaus, the team's head of business development. "Concert promoters are looking to put on events in areas where there is the most likelihood of success."

And this year, the Bengals and the county held the most events at Paul Brown: six, which put $289,451 in the stadium fund.

Stadium cash flow is critical as commissioners work to cover a shortfall in the fund that pays for the $1 billion stadiums. A half-cent sales tax was supposed to cover the cost, but it's not enough.

A long-term solution is needed because the deficit is expected to balloon to $26 million a year after 2013. Commissioners are discussing options, but haven't come to a consensus.

In the meantime, Portune suggested an independent stadium authority, the Enquirer said.

When the stadiums were built in the late 1990s, commissions discussed a stadium authority to bring events to the stadiums, but never put it in place. Today, marketing the stadiums is a joint effort by the county and team.

December 2, 2010
Copyright 2010 MediaVentures

Cincinnati, Ohio - Hamilton County commissioners have opted for a property tax increase to help fund debt payments for Paul Brown Stadium and the Great American Ballpark, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported. The Bengals and the Reds have also stepped in to help.

The average Hamilton County homeowner will pay about $86 more in property taxes than last year - meaning instead of saving about $114 a year, homeowners will save about $28. That's on a $200,000 house.

For every $100,000 value of a person's home, the owner will now pay $42.94 more.

Voters were promised a tax rollback in 1996 when they approved a half-cent sales tax to build the stadiums. Money to fund the rollback comes out of the ailing stadium fund. Reducing the property tax rollback will preserve $13 million in the fund that has a deficit of $16 million in 2011, grows to $32 million for each of the following three years and could eventually reach $700 million if nothing is done, the newspaper said.

The Enquirer added that by not erasing the entire property tax rollback, commissioners can revisit their decision every year and, they say, increase the rollback later.

The Reds and Bengals agreed to pay a combined $9.6 million in rent over the next five years - as opposed to nothing, which the original lease calls for in 2011 to 2015.

The Bengals will pay $7.4 million; the Reds, $2.2 million.

In exchange for the payments, the Bengals will get a $1 million credit against those lease payments for a new playing field and pays for a new scoreboard system, which can cost $10 million. The original lease calls for the county to make all capital improvements to the stadiums. Recently, the stadium fund problems have meant the teams have had to pay for some of those themselves.

The Bengals will also get exclusive naming rights to Paul Brown Stadium. That's potentially lucrative for the team if they can find a sponsor and means little for the county, which under the original lease would see little - if any - profit from naming rights.

The Bengals also promised the county $150,000 a year in revenue from other events, like concerts and monster truck rallies. That's about what it has made each of the last 10 years. But after that, for the rest of the lease, all revenue over that amount goes to the team. Previously, the team and the county shared those profits equally.

As for the Reds, the county currently makes 25 cents on every ticket sold. Beginning in 2016, the team gets to keep that surcharge on all tickets over 1.75 million sold. The team currently sells about 1.9 million tickets a season. So that's a deal worth about $37,500 a year.

Additional surcharges on Reds and Bengals tickets, proposed by Hamilton County Administrator Patrick Thompson are not included.

The Enquirer said the plan solves the deficit for two years - making up the $16 million next year and the $32 million needed in 2012 - and by doing so, lessens the long-term deficit projection, Thompson told the newspaper.

In that time, the county will begin seeing revenue from the state's downtown casinos, and county officials will pursue $7 million owed to the stadium fund by the state and seek tax forgiveness on land on which the stadiums sit.

January 6, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures

Cincinnati, Ohio - The Cincinnati Enquirer says a Kentucky woman and her husband are suing the Cincinnati Bengals, Hamilton County and the beer vendor at Paul Brown Stadium, accusing them of serving too much alcohol to two men sitting behind her at a 2009 game who then fell onto her and broke her nose.

Rebecca and Curtis Dunn of Owensboro, Ky., are next due in court Jan. 12 before Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Jody Luebbers. Owensboro is on the Ohio River about 200 miles southwest of Cincinnati.

The Dunns were attending the Sept. 27, 2009, game when they say two men sitting behind them were drunk, but were continued to be served alcohol, the suit alleges. The suit also was filed against the two unnamed men, referring to them as John Doe I and II.

Because those sued, including Aramark, the alcohol supplier at the stadium, knew the two men were "noticeably intoxicated," they shouldn't have continued to serve them alcohol, it adds.

The Dunns were sitting in front of the two men when they fell on Rebecca Dunn who suffered what the suit termed "catastrophic injuries" that included a broken nose, a broken left index finger, had a cap knocked from a tooth, a "bruised femur, a jammed toe and many other strains and sprains." Because of those injuries, the suit adds, she had to undergo nose surgery that left a scar, had "great pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and both temporary and permanent disability."

January 13, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures

Cincinnati, Ohio - The Cincinnati Bengals are asking Hamilton County for up to $70 million in concessions as the team also agrees to changes that will allow the county to reduce a shortfall in its stadium debt fund, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.

The county's deal with the Cincinnati Reds and Cincinnati Bengals still isn't signed, according to Hamilton Administrator Patrick Thompson. Representatives for the Bengals earlier downplayed the lack of signatures as legal issues that wouldn't upset the deal.

But, the Enquirer has learned the Bengals are asking for more concessions from the county that are worth between $40 million and $70 million. The newspaper believes the additional demands are likely to kill the deal or at the very least require further board approval.

"It's deja vu all over again," said Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune, the only one of the three commissioners to vote against the deal. "I tried to warn David (Pepper) and Greg (Hartmann) not to rush into a deal like this, but we're seeing what happens with these 11th hour agreements."

Part of what the Bengals are asking for is a new scoreboard and a promise that they can stay in Cincinnati for up to 20 years after the current lease expires in 2026. During the extra 20 years, the county would continue to pay for the upkeep of the facility.

Hamilton County commissioners on Dec. 1 committed to a two-year solution to the deficit in the debt service fund. That decision meant homeowners would pay more money in property taxes, but also that the Reds and Bengals would help cover the shortfall, according to the Enquirer. If the deal doesn't go through, the Enquirer says the fund that pays for them will be nearly $1 million into the red at the end of 2012. Under the agreement, the average Hamilton County homeowner will pay $80 more in property taxes. In turn, the Reds and Bengals agreed to pay a combined $9.6 million in rent over the next five years - as opposed to nothing, which the original lease calls for in 2011 to 2015. The Bengals will pay $7.4 million; the Reds, $2.2 million.

The newspaper said the teams benefited in other ways. For the Bengals:
* The plan included a $1 million credit against those lease payments for a new playing field. The original lease calls for the county to make all capital improvements to the stadiums. Recently, the stadium fund woes have meant the teams have had to pay for some of those themselves.
* The team now has exclusive naming rights to Paul Brown Stadium. That's potentially lucrative for the team if they can find a sponsor and means little for the county, which under the original lease would see little - if any - profit from naming rights.
* The team is guaranteeing the county $150,000 a year in revenue from other events, like concerts and monster truck rallies. That's about what it has made each of the last 10 years. But after that, for the rest of the lease, all revenue over that amount goes to the team. Previously, the team and the county shared those profits equally. For the Reds:
* The county currently makes 25 cents on every ticket sold. Beginning in 2016, the team gets to keep that surcharge on all tickets over 1.75 million sold. The team currently sells about 1.9 million tickets a season. So that's a deal worth about $37,500 a year.

The plan was to have solved the deficit for two years - making up the $16 million next year and the $32 million needed in 2012 - and by doing so, lessens the long-term deficit projection.

February 3, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures

Cincinnati, Ohio - The Bengals want Hamilton County to pour $43.6 million into Paul Brown Stadium repairs and improvements over the next decade, four times the amount the county expected to spend, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer.

The plan, obtained by the Enquirer under a public records request, doesn't specify the improvements, listing them only in broad categories like "groundskeeping," "audio/visual," or "concession."

But it does include the county buying an $8 million, state-of-the-art scoreboard sometime in the next two years, the Bengals said.

Without the scoreboard, the Bengals are seeking about $35 million. The newspaper quoted Mark Rosentraub of the University of Michigan who said $20 million to $40 million is reasonable for maintaining Paul Brown stadium over the next decade.

The county says the stadium might indeed need that much work, but the county can't afford it. This year's repairs are likely to be the least expensive, with the county expected to pay $800,000 for repairs and improvements, including new carpet for the grounds crew office, replacing the draft beer system and making the heating and air-conditioning system more energy efficient.

The alternative, they said, is a deteriorating stadium like its predecessor, Riverfront Stadium. The requests come as the county struggles to pay off the $1 billion cost of building Great American Ball Park and Paul Brown stadium.

The sales tax revenues envisioned as paying the stadium debt have fallen short. This year, for the first time, county taxpayers are being forced to pay higher property taxes to help cover that shortfall, the newspaper said.

The Bengals need to face "economic reality," commissioner Greg Hartmann told the newspaper. "The stadium might require $43 million in improvements in the next 10 years, but if the sales tax doesn't generate the dollars we can't do it," said Hartmann, the president of the county's three-member commission. March 17, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures

Hamilton County will get $720,000 it can use to help make bond payments on Paul Brown Stadium and the Great American Ballpark, the Cincinnati Enquirer said. The money will come from AT&T which is installing cellular phone towers at the two venues. The money will be paid out over 10 years.

April 21, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures

Cincinnati, Ohio - The Cincinnati Enquirer says a deal to have Cincinnati's two professional sports teams contribute nearly $10 million to the fund that pays for their stadium construction is dead. The newspaper said it was county leaders - not the teams - that pulled the plug.

That revelation came from Hamilton County Administrator Christian Sigman. It means taxpayers will continue to shoulder the burden of bailing out the county's stadium fund on their own, the newspaper reported.

The deal was announced in December by county commissioners and the teams as a five-year fix to the stadium fund's growing deficit. Property owners would pay more in property taxes, but the teams would chip in, too.

The deal had called for the teams to pay a combined $9.6 million - $7.4 million from the Bengals and $2.2 million from the Reds - in rent between 2011 and 2015, as opposed to nothing as their lease calls for.

The Enquirer said problems with the Bengals surfaced immediately, with the two sides disputing whether the deal included the option for the Bengals to extend their lease for 10 years. The Reds' agreement was thought to remain in place - just not signed - held up by how the Bengals' deal would shake out.

Hartmann told the Enquirer it was the county's choice to ax the deal with the Reds. The reason: the deal with Reds would have mandated beginning in 2015 that a 25 cents-per-seat ticket surcharge would stop after 1.75 million tickets a year were sold.

Hartmann believes because the Reds are doing better, the surcharge - with no cap - would bring in more than the $2.2 million it would get up front from the Reds, he said.

The Reds sold 2,060,550 tickets last year, bringing in $515,137. Had that cap been in place the county would have forfeited $77,637. Under that formula it would take 28 years for the county to make the $2.2 million the Reds were going to give it.

But the newspaper said Hartmann is anticipating the Reds are going to sell more than 2 million tickets a season. The team's single-season attendance record is 2,629,708, set in 1976.

"I've come to the conclusion, as has the administration, is that we'd be betting against the Reds if we took the deal," he told the Enquirer.

In short, Hartmann said, the December deal forced the county to give up too many potential future benefits in exchange for the short-term cash infusion. Democrat Todd Portune said from the beginning the deal was a bad one.

"I voted against it and I didn't like it because the county was being asked to give up too much and it was not in the best interest of taxpayers," Portune told the newspaper. "It was never a solution to the stadium problems."

Hartmann has promised to reduce the tax burden by this year by cutting how much people pay beginning next year for the county's indigent care and children's services levies.

Taxpayers approved a sales tax to build the stadiums in 1996, but that half-cent tax hasn't raised enough money to cover expenses. Reducing the property tax rollback covered the deficit through the end of 2012. But, 2013 brings an expected shortfall of $33 million. And it's from there it continues to grow to $638 million if nothing is done.

May 19, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures

Cincinnati, Ohio - A Hamilton County commissioner wants voters to approve a new ticket tax this fall and he's willing to gather the 8,522 signatures needed himself to put it on the ballot, the Cincinnati Enquirer said. The petitions must be submitted by Aug. 10 to make the November ballot.

Todd Portune says the money would pay for the operation of the two riverfront stadiums.

The City of Cincinnati already imposes a three percent admissions tax, levied on sports games, concerts, dances and plays, for example. In 2010, it brought the city $4.2 million.

Portune's proposed ticket tax would come on top of the city's tax. Under Ohio law, the county board of commissioners doesn't have the authority to implement such a tax, which is why Portune is putting the idea to voters.

Portune told the newspaper he's not sure yet how big the tax would be, or whether it would be only on Reds and Bengals tickets or all events at the two stadiums. Enquirer calculations suggest the tax could add $14 to the price of a Bengals ticket and 44 cents to the price of a Reds ticket.

Nor is it clear how much backing Portune has for his plan, the newspaper said.

Under the Bengals' and Reds' leases, any ticket surcharge must be approved by the teams. Neither team has been willing to approve one.

The Reds sold 2,060,550 tickets last year; to raise the operating expenses, the ticket tax would have to be about 44 cents a ticket, Enquirer calculations show.

The Bengals sell about 600,000 tickets a year, including preseason games, according to county records. To raise $8.5 million the tax would have to be $14 a ticket, Enquirer calculations show.

The average Bengals ticket costs $72; the average Reds ticket, $19.19.

Taxpayers approved a sales tax to build the stadiums in 1996, but that half-cent tax hasn't raised enough money to cover expenses.

Commissioners last year reduced a property tax rollback in place since the stadium vote. That left $13 million in the fund, enough to cover the deficit through the end of 2012. But 2013 brings an expected shortfall of $33 million and continues to grow to $638 million if nothing is done.

Portune is working on the idea outside of official county channels, frustrated by the inability to get consensus on a plan, and that a plan for the Reds and Bengals to chip in about $9.6 million fell apart last month.

July 14, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures

Cincinnati, Ohio - Hamilton County commissioners were flinching at the idea of paying for an instant replay system at the Browns' Paul Brown stadium following a Wall Street Journal article claiming the lease with the Bengals was a bad deal for taxpayers, WKRC reported.

The stadium video and instant replay system is 11 years old, which the television station said by most standards is outdated. In tough budget times, a $307,000 upgrade is hard to swallow, but County Commission President Greg Hartmann told WKRC there's little choice.

"It's a clear requirement of the lease. So, it's an example of the challenges the county taxpayers face under the lease. But it's a clear obligation."

Commissioners postponed voting on the question until they get a legal opinion on the request in light of the NFL lockout.

The prosecutor's office had already reviewed the Bengals request and recommended that County Commissioners approve it. Greg Hartmann says the stadium fund has the money to pay for the instant replay upgrade. Next year, because of declining tax collections the fund is expected to go in the red, WKRC reported.

The Bengals responded to the Journal report saying it misstated construction costs and lease terms, which the Bengals said were the same as other cities' publicly funded pro sports venues built during the same period, and overlooked assistance from the state, WLWT said.

The Bengals also said the newspaper ignored that stadium funds should have been set aside and not used for municipal services.

July 28, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures

Hamilton County commissioners have approved $300,000 to buy an instant replay system for the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported. Under the lease, the county is obligated to replace equipment in Paul Brown Stadium. The technology, by the county's own admission, is outdated. The Bengals asked for the instant replay system while the board is facing a deficit in the special fund that paid to build and maintain Great American Ball Park and Paul Brown Stadium. Based on a May 23 estimate by county administrators, the stadium fund has a 2011 balance of about $5 million. For the first time next year, the fund could go into the red by half a million dollars - though officials hope improvements in sales tax revenue will hold off the deficit until 2013. The deficit grows to $14 million in 2013; $15 million in 2014; and $17 million by 2015, according to the model. Last year, faced with a possible deficit this year, the board of commissioners voted to reduce a property tax credit that's been in place since the 1996 approval of a half-cent sales tax to build the stadiums. The Enquirer said they'll have to vote on the property tax rollback again in November. None of the current commissioners were on the board when the deal with the Bengals was struck.

September 8, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures

Cincinnati, Ohio - Supporters of a ticket tax proposal in Cincinnati are aiming to have a charter amendment on the May primary ballot in 2012, the Middletown Journal News reported.

Spearheaded by Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune, the ticket tax would be calculated each February depending if there was a deficit the prior year. The tax would be no less than $1 and no more than 10 percent of the cost of a ticket in hopes of paying for the operating costs of Great American Ball Park and Paul Brown Stadium, Portune told the Journal News.

The county commissioners have to come up with a way to close a $15 million stadium fund deficit. The sales tax passed in 1996 to fund the construction and maintenance of the two stadiums has underperformed to say the least, Portune said.

"That tax was projected to grow by three percentage points ever year, that's what they (architects of the sales tax plan) relied on to put the model together," Portune said. "It has grown a total of half a percent in the last 11 years."

The ticket tax has to be passed by Cincinnati voters, but it will affect any person who buys a ticket. The average Bengals ticket is $72, while Reds tickets are $19.19.

The ticket tax would be tacked on top of the city of Cincinnati's three percent admission tax. That tax brought in $4.2 million last year.

"We're not going to have enough signatures to get it on the November ballot," Portune said.

Portune said there are about 4,000 signatures on the petition for the city charter amendment, but 7,468 are required to put it on the ballot. All signatures must be from city of Cincinnati residents, according to the city's charter.

"The important thing is to get on (the ballot) and get it passed before the 2012 Bengals season," Portune said. "The tax is structured to collect money from Reds games to cover Reds' expenses, and Bengals games to cover Bengals' expenses."

Even if the proposal made it to this year's November ballot, it wasn't going to have any immediate financial impact for 2011, Portune said.

October 27, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures

Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune said he was "buoyed" by results of a Cincinnati Enquirer poll that showed most residents supported his plan to tax Reds and Bengals tickets as a way to help pay for their stadiums. But, Commissioner Greg Hartmann, who has suggested the least popular idea of raising property taxes as part of the solution, pointed out a ticket tax is not an option at this point. For that to happen, Portune first has to get 7,468 signatures in favor of the idea from registered Cincinnati voters, put it to voters in next year's primary election. Even then, it still faces legal questions. Portune is planning a signature push at the polls on Election Day, a way to assure signatures are coming Cincinnati residents as required.

November 17, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures

Cincinnati, Ohio - The Cincinnati Bengals responded to Hamilton County Commission Todd Portune's idea of a ticket tax to help pay for the ailing stadium fund and the Cincinnati Enquirer said a team vice president didn't mince words.

Troy Blackburn called the idea "misguided frolic" in a letter to the county dated Nov. 11. The letter outlines the team's agreement to cut costs by reducing the amount of repairs it does to Paul Brown Stadium through 2015. The details are still being worked out.

Blackburn accused Portune of grabbing headlines for political gain.

Portune, who is seeking to the put the ticket tax on the ballot next year as a charter amendment, countered: "The letter is so ludicrous it doesn't need to be dignified with a response."

Portune has a long history of animosity with the Bengals. He's twice sued the team over what he perceives as unfair leases and lost.

The exact cost of the tax would be calculated each February. How high or low it is would depend on what the county spent the year before to operate the stadiums, plus whatever it costs to administer the tax itself.

The fund that pays for the county's two professional sports stadiums is facing a $14 million shortfall next year. Portune has pitched the ticket tax as a way to stabilize the stadium fund. He had hoped to put the tax to Cincinnati voters in November, but didn't have enough signatures to get it on the ballot. He's now trying for the May ballot.

Blackburn wrote in the letter that the idea breaches the team leases, which say any ticket tax would have to be approved by the teams.

"After more than a decade of failure, including expensive and time-consuming lawsuits, it would seem a better course would be chosen," Blackburn wrote. "But as we all know too well, some believe that political careers are built grabbing headlines, rather than leadership that fosters real solutions."

Blackburn added that if a ticket tax is imposed, the team will view that as a violation of the lease and void any contributions it makes by curbing spending on stadium upkeep.

"We simply cannot be placed in a position of making accommodations to Hamilton County at the very time that its leadership is acting so imprudently and in derogation of the county's legal obligations," Blackburn wrote.

December 1, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures

Cincinnati, Ohio - WKRC reports that two Hamilton County Commissioners have agreed on a plan to deal with a projected $14 million deficit in the county's stadium fund.

The plan announced by commissioners Todd Portune and Chris Monzel, includes selling Drake Hospital to University of Cincinnati Health for $15 million. It also includes the rollback of property taxes in the county to the 30 percent level promised when voters approved the stadium sales tax.

This comes on the eve of a deadline for agreeing on a plan to deal with this problem. Hamilton County's Auditor must set next year's property tax rates.

"I'm glad that we were able to reach an agreement on this complex issue," Monzel said in a statement. "The end game was to restore the full PTR, as well as ensure the financial solvency of the stadium fund, even if it is only a short-term solution."

The restoration of the full PTR means that a homeowner will save an additional $47 per $100,000 valuation of their home beginning in the first half of 2012.

"For me it's a matter of principle," Monzel said, "in that this county commission is acting to keep county government's word to the taxpayers who voted for this agreement back in 1996."

Earlier this month, Monzel first proposed selling Drake Hospital to UC Health to cover the county's stadium fund shortfall of $14 million for 2012. Portune had said that he would be open to a Drake sale, but also wanted to investigate other healthcare initiatives as part of a deal with UC Health. Both commissioners have been holding separate meetings with UC Health representatives regarding the sale price and the other health-related initiatives.

Monzel was pleased with the $15 million sale price, acknowledging the tough economic conditions, and the fact that under a current county lease agreement with UC Health, the county's only option for selling the facility for the next 30 years is to UC Health.

UC Health also agrees to share 50/50 in the profits/proceeds that might arise out of any resale of Drake that could occur within five years and on a sliding scale if such occurs in years six through ten.

Cincinnati Bengals

Nippert Stadium
Nippert Stadium

Riverfront Stadium
Riverfront Stadium

Paul Brown Stadium
Paul Brown Stadium

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