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Lease requires Hamilton County to foot the bill for a $10 million scoreboard

The Cincinnati Bengals haven't asked for the scoreboard upgrade. But when/if they do, the county has no choice but to comply.

The relationship between the Cincinnati Bengals and Hamilton County has been tenuous at best. When the economy hit rock bottom, the county tried to revise the existing lease. Bengals owner Mike Brown said in late June '10 that those problems are Hamilton County's problems. During the summer of '11, the Hamilton County Commission voted in favor for a scoreboard upgrade, only because county lawyers advised it.

That's because the lease clause 12.3, covering "Level I Enhancements." The clause refers to a "stadium-related improvement" that was not prevalent when the lease was signed in 1997 but is "capable of being added" later. Examples cited in the lease include a "holographic replay system" and "next generation video screen."

Now Hamilton County is clearly on the hook for further upgrades at Paul Brown Stadium.

According to a report by Sharon Coolidge with the Cincinnati Enquirer, if the Bengals request a scoreboard replacement with a high-definition scoreboard, the county has no choice by to comply.

"It’s required by the lease," said county Commissioner Greg Hartmann. "But the money not being there is a reality as well."

The lease specifically says if new technology – including a scoreboard – is installed in 14 other NFL stadiums – Hamilton County taxpayers must buy the same thing for Paul Brown Stadium if the Bengals request it.

According to the Enquirer's report, 21 teams in the NFL already have a high-definition scoreboard, requiring the county to fork over nearly $10 million for the upgrade. And if the county says no, the Bengals "buy a scoreboard and bill the county for it."

However the threshold with other NFL teams having at least 14 HD scoreboards has been reached for several years without the Bengals requesting one during that time.

Stuart Dornette, the Bengals’ lawyer, told The Enquirer Tuesday the Bengals hadn’t formally demanded a new scoreboard "because the Team has been sensitive to the County’s budget issues over the past few years."

But the Bengals could demand one soon to have it installed by the 2014 season.