Bengals call for review of other NFL stadiums to see what goodies they can make taxpayers buy for them

The Cincinnati Bengals are famous (around here, anyway) for getting a state-of-the-art clause in their stadium lease that requires the county to pay for any upgrades that 14 other NFL teams already have, spelling out that this specifically includes “holographic replay systems,” in the event those are ever invented. The team’s owners already used this clause last year to get $7.5 million in public money for a new scoreboard, and now it sounds like they have bigger dollar figures in their sights:

The team sent a letter to Hamilton County officials this week asking for a review of the stadium’s condition and for talks to begin on how it could be improved to keep up with newer stadiums in other NFL cities…

The team’s letter, signed by Bengals Vice President Troy Blackburn, doesn’t mention specific problems or potential upgrades at the stadium, which cost $450 million to build, but it does note that several NFL stadiums have been updated in recent years and that new stadiums under construction in Atlanta and Minneapolis will include “significant changes in stadium design.”

Reading between the lines of the story, it doesn’t sound like the Bengals have a wish list of improvements (in fact, Bengals development director Bob Bedinghaus specifically said he doesn’t have such a list), but rather that they’re taking advantage of a clause in the lease to trigger a review of other stadiums to see what they can shake loose. If the team and county can’t agree, it goes to a panel of arbitrators; given how that worked out in St. Louis with the Rams‘ similar state-of-the-art lease clause, it’s probably not too early for Cincinnatians to commence panicking about now.

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13 comments on “Bengals call for review of other NFL stadiums to see what goodies they can make taxpayers buy for them

  1. so…. ummm. If I understand this right, not only are the taxpayers of Cincinnati (and more!) on the hook for any upgrades deemed necessary, they are also responsible for telling the Bengals what upgrades they should be getting at taxpayers expense?

    What a wonderful world.

  2. This is why cities shouldn’t make promises to teams (or lure them to their cities) with extravagant promises they are not actually willing to keep. Don’t blame the Bengals for this because the city agreed to it.

  3. I am in favor of a federal law which makes it illegal for any direct taxpayer involvement (money) being allocated for the construction, debt repayment, development, maintenance and ownership of any professional sports facility.

  4. Minor point, but there are two separate clauses. One spells out the specific ‘Level I Enhancements’ the county is on the hook for if 14 other stadia have the enhancement (or only 7 other stadia if it was paid for with more than 50% public money—Ha ha, so other cities being suckers only makes it easier for the Bengals). This is where things like the holographic replay system are mentioned.

    The next clause in the lease allows three time windows for the Bengals to ‘negotiate in good faith regarding a program of appropriate Improvements’. The second of these windows closes at the end of this month. That I believe is what the Bengals have initiated here.

    The good news for Hamilton County is that there is only one more period where the Bengals can do the latter. That window opens on January 1, 2020 and closes December 31, 2021. That bad news is that’s 23 years after the stadium opened and, given that 20 years seems to be the new benchmark at which owners demand a totally new building, the Bengals will probably be trying to shake you down for way more than improvements.

  5. Thanks, Michael. So do the Bengals not even have to initiate a review to get things like the holographic replays? (I probably had the lease at one point, but hell if I know where it’s got to.)

  6. They have to make written request. Then it says the county “will install any such Level I Enhancements.” The language also allows for the team to do an enhancement and if that enhancement later meets a Level I specification, the county then has to reimburse the team the full cost.

    Really, the Paul Brown Stadium lease should be required reading for anyone who ever gets elected to any city council anywhere in America that has a professional sports team.

  7. Sorry if that’s not clear. For the Level I Enhancements, I don’t believe there is any process other than the Bengals sending a letter saying, “Fourteen other teams have this, so pony up.”

  8. That is the greatest lease in the history of sports!

    Although I’m thinking that in the future, some forward-looking city will grant us a lease that basically enslaves the citizenry of the town and gives us all their money in perpetuity. Meantime, those poor plebes can be put to work fanning ownership with palm fronds, carrying our sedan chairs, spreading rose petals before us wherever we walk, and tasting our food to make sure no one poisoned it.

  9. The agreement with Hamilton County was one of the most unwise and one-sided agreements in a policy area marked by unwise and one-sided agreements. Teams like the Bengals should be viewed as predators who prey on their communities. I say this, even though the Bengals are my team and I root for them on the playing field.

  10. Who allowed something this stupid into the final agreement and how much did they beg before they were burned alive by a mob of angry Cincinnatians?

    And really, didn’t they realize they could counter such a demand by saying, “But your team is the Bengals. What makes you think this will help you in any way, shape, or form?”

  11. Bob Bedinghaus was the Hamilton County commissioner behind the lease. He was defeated for re-election in 2000, but managed to find another job in short order:

  12. “He was defeated for re-election in 2000, but managed to find another job in short order.”

    Told ya that bribery was the only explanation for these deals.

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