Countering Ray Ratto: Hamilton County is Not Paying for All Those Free Tickets

The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is a popular week for vacations, and it looks like the fact-checkers at CBS Sports are among those who decided to take some time off. How else to explain this this howler from CBSSports.com columnist Ray Ratto, who claims Hamilton County is on the hook for the cost of all the tickets that the Cincinnati Bengals gave away as part of their buy-one-get-one-free deal for the upcoming game against the Baltimore Ravens.

The taxpayers of Hamilton County will pay for it, since they have to buy the tickets that don't get sold as part of their deal with the Bengals when the stadium plan was devised. This is proof that citizens should never allow themselves to allow such a shameful hostage deal. If an NFL team cannot find money to do its own construction project, the owners deserve to perish, or be forced to sell. I mean, they're all essentially billionaires now anyway.

Really, Ray? The county has to buy any unsold tickets? Then will someone please explain to me how in the heck Cincinnati fans have suffered through seven home blackouts this season because of tens of thousands of unsold tickets? How were there any unsold tickets if the county had to buy them all? Shouldn’t simple logic have suggested to Ratto even as he was typing that paragraph that something was fishy?

I guess logic is on vacation over at CBS, too.

Now, Ray can perhaps be excused somewhat because there was indeed a ticket guarantee in the lease deal between the Bengals and the county, but that clause has long since expired:

As a material inducement for Team to enter into this lease, County hereby guarantees the sale by Team of at least 50,000 tickets for general admission seats for each of the Team’s first twenty (20) NFL home games (including preseason games but excluding postseason games) played at the Stadium.

If anyone cares to read the lease themselves, there’s a 5 MB PDF here. The ticket guarantee clause is on page 75.

The reality, as The Enquirer’s Joe Reedy noted yesterday, is that the man paying for those tickets is none other than Bengals owner Mike Brown.

Under the promotion, the Bengals have to pick up 34 percent of the free ticket’s price to cover the visiting team’s share for the league. For a $65 ticket, the Bengals would give the league $22.10.

That means if 9,000 free tickets were provided under the promotion at an average price of $70, the team is writing a check for about $250,000 to cover the visitor’s share.

The bottom line is that claiming that Brown just stuck taxpayers with a big bill is flat-out wrong. Heaven knows I like a good Brown-bashing as much as the next guy, but I would suggest we stick to things that he’s actually done. It isn’t as if there’s a shortage of items to complain about, right?

(Hat tip to CJ’s own bengaljohnboy for catching Ratto’s mistake here. and providing a link to the lease.)

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