On January 30, the Cincinnati Enquirer wrote a story that the Cincinnati Bengals had planned to ask for $43 million from Hamilton County for stadium upgrades and repairs, including an "$8 million, state-of-the-art scoreboard sometime in the next two years." The introduction to that article wrote:
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.
The piece tried to strike a balance between required maintenance costs that, in some perspectives, may have appeared frivolous. Hamilton County officials also enjoyed a platform to point out that they can't give money that doesn't exist in the first place. Bengals Public Relations Director Jack Brennan took issue to the article, pointing out on Friday that the headline "was no accurate in any reasonable sense."
It conjured the Bengals having the gross insensitivity, in these sensitive economic times, to suddenly demand a laundry list of fancy new toys for Paul Brown Stadium. But the story -- surely not read carefully by even a modest percentage of those exposed to the huge headline -- failed to support that.
Brennan would argue that the scoreboard replacement would need to happen eventually, but most of the needs for the requested $43.6 million "were mundane maintenance items. Things like replacing deep well pumps that keep the stadium from flooding, painting the structural steel, carpeting, furniture replacement and the like."
We understand where the Bengals are coming from, mainly because no fan would win an argument that the stadium doesn't need maintenance. And we're not going to dig into the point that Mike Brown would gain benefit from the positive publicity by covering as much of the stadium costs as he can. But it does the team no good bringing up an issue about needing money right now, not with the economy as it stands. And we're not just talking about tax payers.
According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, the Hamilton County budget has dropped from $271.5 million in 2008 to $209.1 million this year -- a 23% reduction -- with a state deficit in the billions. The reduction will largely impact services and as more money is removed the budget, the less likely they'll have money floating around to keep maintaining costs for the stadium. We're not saying they shouldn't either. Hamilton County signed a contract and should be obligated to it. But the Bengals do a disservice to themselves by constantly banging the drum against the County, or even reacting.
The public isn't looking favorably on the Bengals right now and requesting money from a cash-strapped county that affects millions isn't going to rally a single soul behind the team. Yet, the irony in all of this? Far less people would care if the team had more than two playoff losses to their resume since Paul Brown Stadium opened.