Mike Brown: Stadium Funding Is Hamilton County's Problem

The Cincinnati Bengals and Hamilton County are hardly the best of friends. The issue surrounds funding issues of Paul Brown Stadium in which both sides think negotiation is an icky word contrived by Orcs with baseball bats eating six-week old cowhide. A more laymen description (there's a ton of details we're not going into), without the unnecessary overburdening of too much data, basically surrounds that the sales tax increase that was voted in favor of building two new stadiums isn't covering the funding as expected. This has been made exponentially glaring with Hamilton County expecting a deficit of $92 million by 2014.

Brown was made the villain because he truly believes that the County should abide by the lease agreement and refuses to give an inch, helping the county alleviate the bleak financial forecast by taking over some of the costs of the stadium's maintenance. However, in early October (2009), the Bengals offered concessions of $40 million.

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.

The Bengals are not asking for an earlier option to get out of the lease and possibly leave town. Under the heading of long-term assistance, the club is asking for the option to maintain lease terms spelled out for 2016.

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.

By late June, county had yet to respond at the deadline; an issue that's actually becoming heated politically.

Commissioner Greg Hartmann, a Republican who is in the board's minority, said he was angry about the revelation that there have been no talks since October.

"I really think somebody is not doing their job in not touching base with the Bengals for 10 months and I blame the administration," Hartmann said.

During the Bengals annual pre-training camp media luncheon, the Enquirer's Joe Reedy asked Brown about lease negotiations.

"We made a deal with the county. We’ve lived up to it and we expect them to live up to their end of it. The reason why there’s a shortfall in the tax receipts doesn’t have anything to do with us. There’s nothing we can do to remedy that – the shortfall in the tax receipts and that’s a reflection I think of the economy.

The other thing that I could tell you that created a problem is when we moved the stadium west. We were originally ticketed to be built next to the suspension bridge and the result of moving the stadium west is literally a $150-plus million. That wasn’t our decision. We asked them not to do that. We thought it could create a problem. No one ever talks about that. That too is something is beyond our ability to correct.

I would have to tell you that the county’s problem with both stadiums, it just isn’t this stadium, is the sales tax revenue that has fallen short of where it was programmed. It is an amount of money that neither we or the Reds can make good. They are going to have to figure out some other way."

Hartmann, who blamed the Administration in late June for not responding to the Bengals October concessions, responds. "That’s disappointing," Hartmann said. "In my view this is a collective problem. The model under which stadiums built is broken."

So, status quoue remains and Terrell Owens could be coming to Cincinnati.

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