Hamilton County’s lease deal with the Cincinnati Bengals is bad. Real bad. There’s the requirement that the county pay to add such items as “holographic replay systems” in the event they’re ever invented, for starters — but also plenty of items costing taxpayers plenty of money here in the actual present. How much money, you ask?
Hamilton County taxpayers have spent more than $920 million since 2000 as part of a deal to build and operate Paul Brown Stadium…
By the time 2026 rolls around and the 26-year lease between the team and the county expires, the county will have spent more than $1.1 billion on the deal for the Bengals to play in Cincinnati.
Now, some of that is financing costs — a little over a third of the stadium costs are interest payments, which are really a cost of deciding to push payments out into the future, and so pretty much a wash in present dollars (where “present” is defined as the stadium’s opening in 2000). But much of it is not, including a new requirement that the county start paying about $2.7 million a year in stadium operating costs next year, because expecting a massively profitable pro sports franchise ($55.5m in profits last year alone, according to Forbes) to pay to clean its own bathrooms is just crazy talk. Here’s a handy chart provided by WCPO-TV:
Even if you don’t count the interest payments, that’s about $650 million so far, with tens if not hundreds of millions more to come over the next ten years. By which point the Bengals will almost certainly be demanding a new stadium, or at least a new lease with further upgrades to what will then be a 26-year-old venue. You really have to hope that this time county officials will pay attention to the fine print, but probably not.