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Hamilton County Buys Time With Bengals As Lease Discussions Continue


Hamilton County commissioners and the Bengals have a deal in place to cover some of what the county contractually owes the team. Commissioners approved a memorandum of understanding Wednesday delaying a $2.67 million game day operations payment that was due in 2018.Under the MOU, the county will pay the $2.67 million in three installments of $890,000 between 2019 and 2021. This year, the county also will begin paying on $1.46 million worth of improvements like locker room maintenance and security camera upgrades in the five-year capital plan. The funds will come from the riverfront sales tax fund.

The MOU is essentially an agreement that buys the county some time to continue discussions with the Bengals to make adjustments to the team's lease. Tax revenue declines and the state of the economy over the years have left the county scrambling to meet the financial demands of the stadium lease.

Commissioners Denise Driehaus and Chris Monzel both praise the MOU as a good deal for county residents. "It's part of an ongoing conversation that we're having the Bengals to the benefit of the taxpayers," Driehaus says, adding the sides are working collectively to find a solution. "I think it's a really positive thing on all fronts."

"It gives us a year to work with the Bengals to come up with a work plan and how we want to address our year payments going forward," Monzel says.

Under the lease, the county must make reimbursement payments to the Bengals each year. The lease runs through 2026, so those payments run for another eight years (not counting 2018).

In a statement, the Bengals called the MOU another step in making the riverfront a success "and the Bengals appreciate Hamilton County's leadership and cooperation on the matter. Many issues will be coming down the pike in future years, and the parties need to be able to work together so that those issues can be solved, so that Paul Brown Stadium remains a wonderful venue for sports fans, and so that Cincinnati's riverfront remains a gem for the whole region."

Hamilton County Commission President Todd Portune is still recovering from surgery and didn't attend Wednesday's meeting. He did issue a statement through the Bengals and confirmed by WVXU saying, "The MOU represents another positive step in the partnership being developed between the Cincinnati Bengals and Hamilton County. It's my hope that this will be the first of many steps that will secure an even longer term commitment in Cincinnati with the team, Hamilton County and the NFL."

The MOU does not address the 2019 payment, which -- when accounting for inflation -- is projected to be $2.8 million.

Breaking Down The Numbers

  • $2,670,000 - What Hamilton County owes for the 2017-2018 lease year known as the Ninth Year Reimbursement.
  • $890,000 - The amount of each of three installments to be paid in 2018-2019, 2019-2020, and 2020-2021 to cover the total $2.67 million that was due in the Ninth Year Reimbursement.
  • $1,460,000 - Total amount to be paid for capital improvements, broken down as such:
    • $1,200,000 - point-of-sale system upgrade; to be paid in 2019.
    • $100,000 - security camera upgrades; to be paid in 2018.
    • $100,000 - escalator refurbishments; to be paid in 2018 or 2019.
    • $60,000 - locker room maintenance and/or upgrades; to be paid in 2018.
  • $2,803,300 - What Hamilton County will owe for the 2018-2019 lease year, aka the Eighth Year Reimbursement.
Senior Editor and reporter at WVXU with more than 20 years experience in public radio; formerly news and public affairs producer with WMUB. Would really like to meet your dog.