The NFL can give its billionaire owners a case of "Keeping up with the Joneses", in the sense of team facilities. With the Dallas Cowboys' recent "Jerry World" palace and the impending state-of-the-art stadium likely to be erected in Los Angeles, owners know they need the newest and greatest football edifice to continue to drive ticket sales and create an atmosphere players want to be a part of.
For years, the Cincinnati Bengals have had an uneasy relationship with Hamilton County, to put it extremely lightly. In the 1990s, Mike Brown painted himself as the villain when essentially holding the county hostage for a new stadium. Brown basically sent an ultimatum to officials threatening to move the team away (L.A. was a rumor even back then), which was bold given the team's enormous lack of success on the field.
The county, city and taxpayers caved in to the Bengals' demands and Paul Brown Stadium opened in 2000. At the time, it was the NFL's shining beacon of what stadiums should look like in the new millennium. The stadium and adjacent facilities had largely stayed the same for the first 10-plus years after its creation, but a new $10 million scoreboard installed this year, as well as other improvements to the locker room, weight room and team cafeteria occurred this offseason. Hamilton County paid for a number of those projects, with the Bengals also added $4 million of their own, though they weren't legally-bound to do so in their lease agreement.
It appears the Brown family is getting the itch to bring PBS up to the level of stadiums built long after it, as they recently sent a letter to Hamilton County requesting further upgrades to the facility. Per The Cincinnati Enquirer, the letter signed by Troy Blackburn doesn't necessarily point at specifics, but points to the newer stadiums as a reference to bring PBS up to snuff with those buildings.
Per the Cincinnati Enquirer, an excerpt of the letter sent to the county by Blackburn and Co. read: "Given the current landscape for NFL facilities, we think it makes sense for us to meet, survey the status of Paul Brown Stadium, and consider stadium elements around the NFL that could be considered here."
What's raising concerns with critics like County Commissioner Chris Monzel is Blackburn's talk of a stadium redesign. The Brown family pointed to the new stadiums in Minnesota and Atlanta, which makes their request seem as if they're looking for a significant amount of money after so many recent improvements have been made and paid for by both parties.
It sounds as if the rift that existed two decades ago between the Brown family and the county are much better and conversations will commence about what exact enhancements the Bengals are seeking. "I think the relationship between the county and the Bengals is better than it's ever been," County and President of Commissioners Greg Hartmann said. "They're not coming with their hand out. They're coming as partners."
This is likely a topic that will be on the table for discussion for the next couple of years, given the hint that this could be a significant project. Also entangling the topic is the 10 years left on the stadium's lease agreement, making these improvements usable for the next decade or more, should they extend/amend the agreement.
It's important to note that the Bengals are one of a handful of teams with a "state-of-the-art" clause in their contract. That means, per the Bengals' stadium lease, if 14 NFL stadiums have something, then taxpayers must buy the Bengals that thing. It's unknown if any of the improvements they're seeking fall into that category.