Bengals may help Hamilton County with stadium deficit

Posted by Richard Todd - email

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - The Cincinnati Bengals have been talking with Hamilton County about helping the county meet the huge deficit that is projected in the fund that pays for Paul Brown Stadium.

After a records request from a former state legislator, the county has given FOX19 a copy of an October letter from the Bengals that offers to pay for some capital improvements themselves and to make some additional lease payments as part of a package the Bengals value at $40 million.

The letter also mentions stadium naming rights and ways to save a bit for the county in operating expenses.  The Bengals also request the return of the County's suite at the stadium, which includes seats the county has given away to taxpayers in random drawings.

The letter also points out the Bengals are willing to consider this despite the county having sued them over the stadium lease deal.

County Commissioner David Pepper tells FOX19 that part of the letter makes it sound like the Bengals want out of the lease early, but the team told him they're not requesting that. He says it's good that the county and the Bengals are now talking.

Pepper says the letter came about after Hamilton County put out feelers about getting some help with the deficit, and the county administrator and some assistants met with the Bengals. Pepper says he met informally with the Bengals after the county received the letter.

The problem with the stadium fund arose because of the way the stadium was financed. When the sales tax that pays for the stadium was set up, the county projected that the annual large annual increases form the economy of the 1990's would continue to happen, when in fact revenues have been far below, leading to a gap between what the county needs to pay and what the stadium tax is bringing in that will likely get much wider over time.

The county is scrambling to find money to fill that gap. Pepper proposed reducing a tax break from homeowners that was included in the stadium campaign, but his fellow Democrat Todd Portune and Republican Greg Hartmann opposed it. Some of the revenue sources they proposed instead have not materialized.

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