As posted yesterday on Cincinnati.com, the Bengals responded to the WDR post around charging Season Ticket Holder's to attend the team pep rally on July 26th. Part of the comments from the team included explanation for the $10 charge - which apparently helps defray the costs of a local band, fireworks, security and other expenses. A focus group also thought the fee was reasonable.
Mike Florio at PFT also posted his thoughts, asking "whether there’s a way to do this without soaking $10 out of everyone who attends".
After reviewing some of the comments both at Cincinnati.com and on our site - we thought some clarification was needed:
- Some fans are fired up that we are questioning the $10 cost. It's not about the $10...but about what the $10 represents. No matter how you feel about paying $5 or $10 or $20 a ticket, in our view it's the principle that they are charging anything at all to season ticket holders.
- Again - this is not an event open to the general public. This is an event for season ticket holders only, who have already paid at least $400 per seat for the entire season (not including the eventual COA they will have to purchase, at minimum $300 per seat).
- From our perspective - the Bengals should have approached this one of two ways:
1) All or part of the proceeds benefiting the Marvin Lewis Community Fund, the Anthony Munoz Foundation, Freestore Foodbank, or another deserving local charity.
2) Charging the general public to attend, but offering free tickets as an added benefit for season ticket holders.
Honestly, it comes down to a difference in philosophy...a philosophy about how a sports team should want to connect with the community where it resides. A community that overwhelmingly approved a publicly-funded stadium.
This cost that is 'north of six-figures' should be considered an investment in regaining/strengthening an emotional connection with fans. Compared to the Steelers in Pittsburgh or even the Reds...the Bengals are not woven into the fabric of this community. I argue they could be - quite easily - if the organization had a better vision on how to treat their most loyal stakeholders. I think most can agree that there is room for improvement in this department.
Cincinnati is a town where people might leave for one reason or another, but many return home. People who live here are generally from here. My point is that we are loyal to this city, it's not full of transplants like Atlanta or Washington DC. Cincinnati is also football crazy and would be absolutely rabid over the Bengals (I'm talking to Steeler/Packer levels) if the team had some on-field success to make us proud...and an organization that invested in making lasting connections with its fans. I truly believe that. Fans have a lack of trust with the Bengals, and the organization has earned that distinction over the past two decades.
That being said, are the Bengals trying more fan-friendly events this off-season? Absolutely and their efforts have certainly been a small step in the right direction. But putting on an event like this and charging your season ticket holders (because you want to defray costs) sends the wrong message. It's missing the forest for the trees. Obviously this isn't about this one single event - but it has been a consistent track record spanning 20 years of not showing appreciation to a fan base that has fiercely supported this organization.
Isn't $100,000 a smart, strategic investment that will express to season ticket holders that we truly value your support? Whether it's a lifetime fan who has had season tickets since Nippert Stadium, or someone who came on board this year once prices dropped to $40 per game, the Bengals need to start recognizing and celebrating that commitment.
Fans can see the $10 as a minimal cost and this argument in general as a gross overreaction. Heck, season ticket holders not interested can simply ignore the offer and move on. They are definitely entitled to that opinion, and I can understand that belief.
From our point of view, however, this all comes back to a larger issue. The issue that the Bengals just continue to think about their chief consumer differently than most sports teams. This was yet another prime example.