Hamilton County may now have to fire sheriffs to afford payments to Bengals required by stadium lease from hell

Hamilton County, Ohio, has reached an agreement with the Cincinnati Bengals allowing the county to defer $2.67 million in payments to the team from this year to next. And if you’re wondering why the county is sending public money to the local pro sports team on a regular basis, you clearly haven’t been following the county’s lease from hell, which not only requires taxpayers to foot the bill for any future stadium improvements needed to keep the team on par with other NFL franchises (including, famously, holographic replay systems once they’re invented), but also has the team paying negative rent, with the county forwarding $2.67 million a year (rising by 5% each year) to the Bengals owners for “operating costs.”

County officials made noise late last year about simply refusing to make the payment and seeing what the Bengals owners would do — they could break the lease and threaten to move, but then they can do that when the lease runs out in 2026 anyway — but instead they seem to have settled on waiting a year to figure out where to come up with this year’s $2.67 million, plus next year’s $2.8 million. Which is going to be a bit of a problem, because the cupboard is pretty much bare:

The cash-strapped county can’t pay the Bengals this year because it faces $28 million budget deficit in 2019. The county is considering raising the sales tax to help keep the overcrowded jail running, pay for sheriff patrols and avoid deep cuts to staffing.

If Hamilton County ends up adding “laying off sheriffs” to “selling public hospitals” on the list of things it’s done to pay for this Bengals stadium over the years, it will truly cement its place as negotiator of the worst lease in the history of professional sports. If it hasn’t already, that is.


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