At least $493M needed to maintain, upgrade Paul Brown Stadium over 20 years

Paying for Paul Brown Stadium upgrades
Published: Apr. 26, 2022 at 2:54 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI (WXIX) - $493 million - that is a portion of the price needed to upgrade and maintain Paul Brown Stadium over the next 20 years, according to the first of two reports from the architectural firm hired by the Bengals and Hamilton County.

On Tuesday, Demetra Thornton with the Gensler firm spoke to the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners about their findings.

The major basis of the study is that a new stadium is not needed, Thornton said.

Paul Brown Stadium was built in 2000 with the notion it would need to adapt over time to current needs, she explained to the commissioners.

“The original design was meant to be expanded,” Thornton said. “We learned from Riverfront. I don’t want this building to be imploded. I want it to stand the test of time.”

The quality of upkeep of Paul Brown has been good and the stadium has “good bones,” Thornton said.

Gensler’s report set a number of goals for PBS and included how much it would cost to meet them - $493 million.

DisciplineEstimated cost over 20 years
MEP & Fire Protection$13,058,250
Food & Beverage + Retail$38,089,228
Vertical Transportation$9,947,500
Roof & Envelope$7,840,055

Upgrades for fan experience-type things will likely be included in Gensler’s master plan. Those upgrades will require even more money.

Thornton said the more comprehensive master plan will be completed at the end of the year.

The Bengals’ current stadium lease expires in 2026. Lease negotiations between Hamilton County and the Bengals are expected to start two years before that, per the Enquirer.

How those talks go could decide whether the Bengals stay in Cincinnati or leave, the Enquirer’s Scott Wartman writes.

The county wants the stadium used more to help sustain itself financially.

“What’s missing is how do we make money and take the burden off the taxpayers? How do we get more events? How do we get more than just our football games. Right now, both our stadiums are sitting dark too long, meaning we’re paying for 365 days a year, but we’re not getting 365 days worth of a use,” said Commissioner Alicia Reece.

Commissioners did say their No. 1 goal will be to reduce the impact on taxpayers.

“I am a huge fan as well, a huge sports fan, huge Bengals fan, but as we move into this component, we have to look at how do we, as we represent our shareholders, which are the taxpayers, how do we get the right investment, the right win-win,” said Commissioner Reece.

The stadium upgrades are something everyone has known is coming. Now that time is here, another question needs to be asked: is it worth it to invest in a brand new stadium?

By the time the lease deal is up in 2026, Paul Brown Stadium will have cost taxpayers more than $1 billion since it opened in 2000.

The initial budget for PBS was $280 million, but construction costs totaled $448,818,738, soaring over the budget.

Add to the taxpayer burden, the county has paid more than $375,856,426 of interest on the stadium and that’s on top of the $2.5 million to operate and maintain the stadium annually.

When the Bengals’ initial lease expires in 2026, PBS is a billion-dollar stadium.

The cost of Paul Brown Stadium

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