Proposed New Tax Could Keep the Bengals From Selling Out

The Cincinnati Bengals are going to have a hard time selling tickets in 2011. There hasn't been a year in recent history in which the Bengals were hyped up like they were in 2010. They seemed to have all the pieces in place and coming off of their successful 2009 campaign, even analysts, who are usually down on the Bengals, were predicting them to play in the Super Bowl before the season started. 

But, they went 4-12 and couldn't move the ball on offense through the air, regardless of the star power at the wide receiver position, or on the ground, and their defense took a major step back from where it was the year before. 

Needless to say, even though the Bengals fired offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski, hired Jay Gruden and had a successful draft, they are probably going to have a hard time selling out in 2011.

Now, it seems, Mike Brown might have an even harder time selling tickets than he would before. Todd Portune, a democratic Hamilton County commissioner has proposed a new tax on tickets sold at Paul Brown Stadium and Great American Ball Park that would help the stadiums pay for their own upkeep.

According to The Cincinnati Enquirer's Sharon Coolidge, the proposed tax could add up to $14 dollars to the already high cost of a Bengals ticket, which the average cost is $72 now (to you Reds fans, the price would only go up 44 cents). 

The Bengals didn't say they would lower ticket prices in 2011 like some other teams did, but they did repeatedly say that they wouldn't raise ticket prices (wasn't that sweet of them). Even though the Bengals and the Reds leases are written so they would have to give the thumbs up to any ticket increases, Portune has found a way around the leases -- and that way is through you, the registered voter. If his proposal comes to a vote (which would require 8,522 signatures before the Aub. 10 to get on the November ballot), and that vote passes, the teams may not have a choice.

And it's the NFL's current labor situation that has made Portune think that taxpayers shouldn't have to fork more money over to the league for stadium upkeep.

"I've been watching the NFL fighting over $9 billion of profit every year and thinking it's crazy ... for taxpayers to have to subsidize any of their expenses," Portune said. "An admissions tax is a user fee. It's those who use the stadiums paying for the stadiums."

While the estimated cost of upkeep at Great American Ballpark (where the Reds play for you out-of-towners) is $905,000 in 2011, the cost of upkeep on the Bengals' stadium, Paul Brown Stadium, is $8.5 million. For a team that's only going to play 10 games maximum (unless they go to the playoffs.... so 10 games maximum) in 2011, I don't see how that's possible, but I'm just feeding you the news. 

It's unclear as to whether or not Portune's ticket tax will go into effect or not, but one thing I can tell you is that if the average cost of a Bengals ticket goes from $72 to $86, Mike Brown will have a much harder time selling them, and that means that us Bengals fans who live within the 75-mile blackout radius, could be in trouble.

In one way, Portune's plan would put the stadium upkeep in the fans who don't mind paying to go see games live (which has definitely been me in the past), and this could even put added pressure on Brown to put some sort of winning product on the field consistently. On the other hand, though, Portune's proposal, if passed, could possibly punish Bengals fans who can't afford to pay over $100, after food and parking, to see a Bengals game because of the NFL's blackout policy.

Could Portune's proposal (that's kind of fun to say), if passed in Cincinnati, spread to other cities, raising other teams' ticket prices? Could this be the way the NFL is payed back for going into lockout mode, when they were unable to split up $9 billion? Could this eventually cause the NFL to re-think their blackout policy?

Who knows? It's way to early to tell right now, but one thing is for sure, during the curent economy, I could see something like this catching some serious wind.

What do you think?

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