A long expose in the latest Cincinnati Magazine sheds light on the stadium deal, both past and present. The article's author methodically lays out the timeline of events that has led to today's news that Hamilton County is selling Drake Hospital to fund the deficit caused by required stadium expenses and lower sales tax revenue.
Read the whole thing, please. Here are some teasers:
The general thesis:
If you’ve turned on a TV or picked up The Cincinnati Enquirer lately, you know that instead the Bengals and Hamilton County have continued squabbling—and the stadium fund has continued hurtling toward financial disaster.
One reason, of course, is the economy. Since 1996, when voters agreed to increase the sales tax and build two new stadiums, Hamilton County has seen a lot of shops close or move to the exurbs (and a lot of shoppers shift their attention online). Tax revenues haven’t met projections, and each year the stadium fund has fallen further behind. Another reason is the Bengals lease, which requires the county to pay for everything from that new scoreboard to the stadium’s electric bill. Forget the team’s losing record—it’s the lease that earns national derision. In 2009, The New York Times devoted a long story to PBS’s “particularly lopsided lease.” This year, The Wall Street Journal devoted an even longer story to “one of the worst professional sports deals ever struck by a local government.”
The overall message:
At the stadium’s groundbreaking, Brown said the new facility deserved “a winning team. That’s what we plan to do.” Well, they haven’t, even as Brown has continued to turn enormous profits and to manhandle Hamilton County with a mix of business savvy and litigious bullying. But the county deserves some blame, too—and not just the previous administrations....That’s the first thing to remember about the stadium debate: The Bengals played rough from the beginning. The second is that a small and incestuous group has always driven the discussion.
The local media love to trumpet the county’s long-term projections—a $700 million deficit by 2032!—but that doesn’t make sense when the fund includes so many moving parts. In reality, we’re facing something far worse: a bruising annual argument in which the county looks bad, the Bengals look worse, and everyone wastes time and money.
Over the years, Brown has relied on peculiar logic to make his arguments. (Just one example: While he loves comparing PBS’s cost to that of stadiums in Jacksonville and Cleveland, Brown never mentions that owners in both cities have helpfully renegotiated their leases.) But even if his arguments were completely sound, why would an NFL owner pick such public fights with his city? It’s not classy. It creates heaps of bad press. And it all happens while Brown is earning crazy amounts of money in a stadium paid for by county taxpayers.
Go read the whole thing, get angry, and remember that's you are still not wasting your money on a team that is working to enrich themselves while bankrupting the city.