The Cincinnati Bengals and Hamilton County commissioners have agreed to a deal that clears the way for a music venue at The Banks. It also makes some changes to the Paul Brown Stadium lease.
The Bengals had the right to block the development of anything next to the stadium based on the structure's height. While the county approved building a venue on lot 27, the team preferred lot 24. Under the new memorandum of understanding (MOU), the team drops its objection.
MEMI will build and operate the indoor-outdoor facility that can host concerts for up to 4,000 people. Hamilton County Commission President Todd Portune says he expects it to open in spring 2020.
"What is reflected in what we are acting upon today not only secures the location for the music venue, but it goes way beyond that. It really redefines our contractual relationship with the Bengals," Portune says. "That is also a great thing for Hamilton County and for county taxpayers."
The county's payments to the Bengals, known as the "out year payments," end. Prior to this amendment, the county would have had to pay the team $29.4 million dollars.
The county will spend $6.3 million on capital repairs, replacements and improvements in 2019; $5.5 million in 2020 and 2021; and $5 million a year after that until 2026.
"The level two enhancements literally were a blank check under the original lease agreement with respect to improvements. We have now set a cap on what the total of that exposure is going to be to county taxpayers," Portune says.
"This is our facility," Portune says. "Paul Brown Stadium is Hamilton County's facility. It is ours to maintain, ours to use, ours to enhance, ours to put to other events. We want to maintain it and improve it and enhance it in ways that we can use Paul Brown Stadium for as many other events as we can, for the benefit of Hamilton County taxpayers."
Commissioner Denise Driehaus says the agreement has benefits on several levels. "One is for all the stakeholders who obviously have an interest, as well as the retailers who've been asking us to take action to generate more activity down on The Banks. The last piece is for the taxpayers and those who've made investments through their tax dollars for The Banks. We're building. This is a piece of the puzzle."
The lone Republican on the Board, Chris Monzel, called the agreement a "reset" of the relationship between the county at the Bengals, but cautioned about future decisions. "I believe the county still has to remain vigilant in protecting the residents. There are many important decisions that are left to be made and negotiated in the coming months, and I hope that the decisions will be made to benefit them."
Other parts of the MOU include:
The Banks development plan will undergo a review, by an urban planning consultant, recommended by the Joint Banks Steering Committee. The building height limitations and development guidelines at The Banks will also be reviewed.
The county will buy 15 acres of property next to Paul Brown Stadium for redevelopment. The so-called Hilltop site will be redeveloped for parking. The land is currently used for concrete production. Portune says it, and the green space next to the music venue, will be available for game day events like tailgating.
The Bengals will also have the right to build, at its own expense, an indoor practice facility at the Hilltop site, or on the existing practice fields. The team will pay for maintenance and upkeep.
Cincinnati Council will need to sign off on agreements related to the music venue, but the stadium lease is between the Bengals and Hamilton County.