Wall St. Journal calls Bengals stadium deal “one of the worst ever struck”


Paul Brown Stadium is more than a decade old, but the cost keeps going up.

In 2010, the Wall St. Journal reports that Hamilton County spent $34.6 million on the stadium.  That’s 16.4% of the county’s total budget, and the number is rising by the year.

“The [property] tax hit is just the latest in a string of unforeseen consequences from what has turned into one of the worst professional sports deals ever struck by a local government — soaking up unprecedented tax dollars and county resources while returning little economic benefit,” Reed Albergotti and Cameron McWhirter write for the paper.

The Bengals will argue with the details, but one study estimated the total cost of building the stadium to the public was close to $555 million. The county says it cost $454 million. The original budget: $280 million.

We’re not smart enough to cogently analyze the rest of the numbers in the excellent piece. We can be depressed by them at a time when Hamilton County had to cut school budgets when they are already failing so many students.

Sure, the Bengals extracted the best deal they could get.  But they did so by leveraging a possible move out of town, and then rewarding fans with a decade of struggle.

The trend in stadium building has veered away from using from public money, which means deals like the one the Bengals got should be a thing of the past.  The impact of the stadium on the budget of Hamilton County will serve only to hasten that reality.

45 responses to “Wall St. Journal calls Bengals stadium deal “one of the worst ever struck”

  1. Mike Brown only cares about money and keeping his family name on the stadium. Helping the community, or developing a winning or even watchable team is not a priority. This is not a new development.

  2. well only if we could get govt out of healthcare, unemployment, education, we would get out govt debt under control quickly. this should draw the ire of the comrades…….

  3. Are the people in Minnesota aware of this problem? Do not give the owner of an NFL team free money for a stadium, period. The Brown Family is not looked on kindly by the major money owners in the league due to their freeloading ways. They refuse to sell the naming rights of the stadium yet look to the money making teams for a share of the revenue generated from this source. Ask Jonathon Kraft what he thinks of this group of “Thanks Dad” trustafarians.

  4. The trend in stadium building is veering away from using from public money -, which means deals like the one the Bengals got should be a thing of the past.

    Zygi Wilf would beg to differ.

  5. Using taxpayer money to build a stadium is bull. If you’re an owner and you can’t afford to run your team, then freaking sell it to someone who can.

  6. Don’t worry people of Cincinnati, I’m sure that when your starting QB, 2 WRs, and RB from last year are gone next year, things will start to turn around…


    Ohio sucks at all things sports.

  7. Yeah, the real issue is in the next to last paragraph. Mike Brown continually told the public that the team couldn’t be competitive without a new stadium (and everything that goes along with it).

    Been 10 years Mr. Brown.. one playoff appearance. One. Get a GM already.

  8. “the trend is veering away from using public money”? Nope. The trend is veering toward talking about this, but not actually planning to do it…

  9. With the CBA talks focusing on growing overall revenue and excluding revenue sharing agreements, coupled with state and local fiscal realities, it just seems that smaller market teams are destined to leave for bigger markets.

    That’s unfortunate, the smaller market teams are every much a part of the fabric of the game as the big market teams.

    This is America’s game, and I for one hope that it represents all of America, not just the cities.

  10. jonscoit says:

    “the trend is veering away from using public money”? Nope. The trend is veering toward talking about this, but not actually planning to do it…

    It WILL happen…when turkeys dropped from a helicopter fly.

  11. Wait now I know everyone likes to take shots at the Bengals and deservingly so for some stuff, but this article is talking about the double stadium deal. Hamilton county tax payers are paying for both stadiums (Reds and Bengals) in that total number spent.

  12. The Bungals deserve their rating as the worst professional USA sports team. Mike Brown is a joke, the team is a joke, the coach is a joke, and the city is the butt of jokes

  13. It’s been two playoff appearances…

    Anyways, should the Bengals have been like “Whoah, what are you, stupid?” when dealing with these “educated officials”?

    They took what the county was willing to offer them.

    And about the naming rights:

    “Under the terms of the memorandum of understanding agreed to last September by the Bengals and the county, the first $5 million garnered from naming rights was to be part of the Bengals’ $44 million contribution to the project. The next $11.67 million was to go to the Bengals. Anything beyond that was to be split, with the county getting 30 percent and the team receiving 70 percent.

    When Brown decided to put his father’s name on the stadium, he had to make up the $5 million difference out of his own pocket.”

  14. They mention property taxes. Doesn’t that money go to, you know, the local government?

  15. As long as Mike Brown is owner of the Bengals they will never be anything but a loosing organization. He is penny pinching mizer. As long as he is making money he could care less about winning or the fans.

  16. So Mike Brown doesn’t seem to be spending his money on the stadium. The Bengals don’t have an indoor facility. The Bengals don’t have a front office. The Bengals don’t pay a scouting agency. The Bengals routinely don’t pay much money to their players.

    What does Mike Brown spend his money on? It sure as hell doesn’t seem to be running his football team.

  17. It’s a Cat and Mouse game.
    Twenty or so years ago, Bob Kraft was all set to move the Patriots to Hartford because the State of MA wouldn’t agree to finance any of the new stadium he desperately needed.
    And by every indication, the state was more than willing to let him take his team and walk.
    In the end, Kraft financed the $325 million stadium himself, while the state begrudgingly put up $80 million for infrastructure and other access improvements.
    There was no freakin’ way Kraft wanted to move the team to an outpost like Hartford, CT. And the pols in Boston knew that.
    Cat and Mouse.

  18. Rosenthal, I’m afraid that throwing more money at the catchall of “education” will not solve the myriad problems of local school systems, in Cincinnati or any other city which is home to a major sports franchise.

  19. Ladies and gentlemen……
    Let’s get this corrected.
    This is NOT a stadium. Paul Brown Stadium is in reality a work release program facility for troubled athletes that have been arressted!
    Doesn’t the community have a moral responsibility to help rehabilitate these “poor” criminal athletes?
    What would they do? Would they just wonder the streets at say….3am……and get drunk and disorderly? Might we have some whoopin’ up on their wives? Might we have some on illegal substances?
    Folks…..we have to save these retributes and the wealthy elite like Mike Brown. It’s our moral obligation to pay more taxes while the Mike Browns and these rich athletes suffer through excessive marginal tax rates!
    They need our help! Oh….and none of these “poor” retributes pay into social security above, I believe it is, the cap of about $135,000! If “you” earn less than that…..”you” are paying social security on 100% of your income! These “poor” athletes and eletist owners are only paying social security taxes up to the cap of about $135,000 and then they pay no more. Yet, Hamilton County taxpayers can give them 16.4% of the county’s revenue while schools, fire, police, medical, etc. are axed! THESE ATHLETES, OWNERS, AND CEO’s OF AMERICA ARE JUST RAPED IN HAVING TO PAY THEIR TAXES! Haven’t you heard!? THEY ARE STRUGGLING!
    Come on! These “poor” rich retributes are over taxed! John Beohner of Ohio would not dare have us insult these guys with a higher tax bracket! They don’t deserve it!
    We regular folks have to pick up the tab for over runs! We must do our parts to save these poor people with such “money” problems!

  20. i think you look at wrong bigdawgy54, i think everybody should be the top tax rate….I mean you want to be fair dont you?

  21. This story makes my blood boil. What you non-Cincinnati folks dont realize is that when the stadium deal was being negotiated, it was led by then Hamilton County Commission Bob Bedinghaus.

    This man, employed by the County, gave Mike Brown and his useless NFL franchise this phenominal deal outraging his constituents before, during, and after this contract was signed. He was subsequently voted out of office by a signficant margin.

    The kicker? The second his term was over, he became an employee of the Bengals organization where he has been ever since. Why Hamilton County cannot sue to void this contract due to the obvious conflict of interest is beyond me.

    Mike Brown is not only a terrible owner, but he is a despicable human being as well

  22. rc33: OUTPOST? HUMM,SOME FACTS: Hartford is the capital city of the U.S. state of Connecticut.
    As of the 2010 Census, Greater Hartford was the largest metropolitan area in Connecticut with a population of 1,188,841. Greater Hartford’s close proximity to, and economic and cultural interconnectedness with the Springfield Metropolitan Area combine to make the Hartford-Springfield Metropolitan Area the 2nd most populous region in New England, with a population of approximately 1.9 million. Collectively, the Hartford-Springfield Metropolitan Region is nicknamed the Knowledge Corridor because it hosts 32 universities and colleges, including several of the United Sates’ most prestigious, and approximately 120,000 university students. The two cities share Bradley International Airport, which lies equidistant between the two major cities’ centers.

    Nicknamed the “Insurance Capital of the World”, Hartford houses many of the world’s insurance company headquarters; insurance remains the region’s major industry. Almost 400 years old, Hartford is among the oldest cities in the United States. Following the American Civil War, Hartford took the mantle of the country’s wealthiest city from New Orleans. In 1868, Mark Twain wrote, “Of all the beautiful towns it has been my fortune to see this is the chief.”[4]

    Hartford is home to the nation’s oldest public art museum (Wadsworth Atheneum), the oldest public park (Bushnell Park), the oldest continuously published newspaper (The Hartford Courant), the second-oldest secondary school (Hartford Public), and until its closure in 2009, the sixth-oldest opera company in the nation (Connecticut Opera).

    In 2010, the Hartford metropolitan area ranked second nationally based on per capita economic activity, behind only San Francisco, California. Hartford is ranked 32nd of 318 metropolitan areas in total economic production and, with its Knowledge Corridor sister city Springfield, Massachusetts, the two cities metropolitan areas generate over $110 billion GDP, more than nearly half of the 50 U.S. states

  23. Connecticut’s other traditional industry is financial services; for example, insurance companies in Hartford and hedge funds in Fairfield county. As of the 2010 Census, Connecticut features the highest per capita income, Human Development Index (0.962), and median household income in the United States.

  24. Connecticut has the most multi-million dollar homes in the Northeast, and the second most in the nation after California, with 3.3% of homes in Connecticut priced over $1 million.

  25. And the icing on the cake is one of the Hamilton County Commissioners who negotiated this deal thereafter lost re-election and has since then been an EMPLOYEE OF THE BENGALS! Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Bob Bedinghaus.

  26. It’s easy to paint Mike Brown as a villain, but the county agreed to the contract. A deal is a deal. Nobody foresaw the economic downturn. He is in no way obligated to make concessions.

    Look at how he is handling Carson Palmer’s contractual obligations.

    Mind you I am a Bengals fan and I hate the way the franchise is run but again, a deal is a deal.

  27. The comparison between Kraft and the Patriots situation and the Bengals situation is not particularly strong.

    Kraft knew he was going to make money in the Boston suburbs one way or the other. He just didn’t want to pay for the stadium that was likely to produce all that revenue. The pols knew he wasn’y going anywhere and they also knew they’d likely be able to get another franchise in Boston in the event he did leave. Kraft wasn’t holding anything like all the cards, he just had an ok hand and he folded when he realized that.

    The Bengals on the other hand weren’t going to be in strong position to capitalize on a stadium investment because their ownership and management is weak and has been for a long time.

    Mike Brown probably would have made more money out of a relocation than staying in place because anything looks fresh for the first few years and the revenues in a fully-paid stadium in LA or some other location paying through the nose for it’s NFL franchise would have been better than what the team settled for in Cincinnati. There was no guarantee that Cincinnati would get another franchise after the Bengals left either.

    Brown had the pols over a barrel and he played it for all it was worth. It was probably the one smart decision he’s made since he’s owned the team.

  28. The Cincy school system is a loser and no amount of money will change that. Single parent families and the welfare benefits will assure that. Go Moeller

  29. Fair enough, nah.

    Two points:

    — I do think the pols believed Kraft wouldn’t actually leave but the deal Hartford offered was sweet, considerably better than the one he settled for by keeping the team in Foxboro.

    — the Boston area would’ve had to build a new stadium in order to “get another NFL team” and, as we witnessed, there was zero chance they were gonna fork over the dough.

  30. Re: the part of the article that indicated the county had to cut school budgets when they were failing so many students already.(not word for word, but the essence of the sentence) The county budget has absolutely nothing to do with any of the districts in the county, including the city. They each have their own tax revenue, plus what is received from the state and federal govts. Mike Brown proved his skill, which is running a business other than an NFL franchise.

  31. Interesting fact which I’m not sure is in the article…the county commissioner responsible for working out this terrible deal was Bob Beddinghouse. After his term was up he took a job with the Bengals and has worked there the past 10 years. Hmmm

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