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Thread: NY Times article about Cincinnati stadiums

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    Just The Big Picture macro's Avatar
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    NY Times article about Cincinnati stadiums

    The article focuses on the negatives of building the stadiums and fails to consider the negatives of not building them. There would probably be no NFL team in the city and the Reds might not be in Hamilton County.

    So, what do you think? Was it worth it? What would the riverfront look like today, otherwise?

    December 25, 2009

    Stadium Boom Deepens Municipal Woes
    By KEN BELSON

    CINCINNATI — Years after a wave of construction brought publicly financed stadiums costing billions of dollars to cities across the country, taxpayers are once again being asked to reach into their pockets.

    From New Jersey to Ohio to Arizona, the stadiums were sold as a key to redevelopment and as the only way to retain sports franchises. But the deals that were used to persuade taxpayers to finance their construction have in many cases backfired, the result of overly optimistic revenue assumptions and the recession.

    Nowhere is the problem more acute than in Cincinnati. In 1996, voters in Hamilton County approved an increase of half of one percent in the sales tax that promised to build and maintain stadiums for the Bengals and the Reds, pay Cincinnati’s public schools and give homeowners an annual property tax rebate. The stadiums were supposed to spur development of the city’s dilapidated riverfront.

    But sales tax receipts have fallen so fast in the last year that the county is now scrambling to bridge a $14 million deficit in its sales tax fund. The public schools, which deferred taking their share for years, want their money.

    The teams have not volunteered to rewrite their leases. So in the coming weeks, the county plans to cut basic services, lower its legal bills and drain a bond reserve fund with no plan for paying it back.

    “Anyone looking at this objectively knows it’s a train wreck,” said Dusty Rhodes, the county auditor. “I told them they were making a big mistake, but they didn’t want to hear me.”

    Cincinnati is hardly alone. In Indianapolis, the Capital Improvement Board spent 2009 trying to find $32 million to run the Lucas Oil Stadium and convention center. In Milwaukee, a drop in sales tax receipts may delay by several years the date for paying off the bonds issued to build Miller Park, the home of the Brewers.

    Columbus, Ohio, is considering using public money to keep the Blue Jackets in town. Glendale, Ariz., has fought to hold the Phoenix Coyotes to their long-term lease. In New Jersey, a ticket surcharge may be added to help resolve a tenant-landlord dispute between the Devils and Newark.

    Mark Rosentraub, the author of the book “Major League Losers,” said that many of the stadium deals included “revenue bombs,” with financial traps like balloon payments on debt in later years and sweeteners like the Hamilton County property tax rebate to win public support.

    In many cases, the architects of the deals are long gone by the time the bill comes due.

    “This is one of the effects of the economic tsunami sweeping through,” Rosentraub said of the deficits.

    The 1996 proposal to build stadiums for the Bengals and the Reds had plenty of proponents. The economy was growing, Riverfront Stadium was outdated and the Bengals were hinting that they would move, as the Browns had done.

    The plan went awry almost from the start. The football stadium exceeded its budget by $50 million, forcing the county to issue more bonds. Forecasts for growth in the sales tax turned out to be too rosy. The teams received sweetheart leases. In 2000, voters threw out the county commissioners who cut the deal.

    That year the sales tax grew 1.8 percent, the first of many years below the 3 percent forecast. Both stadiums were originally expected to cost $500 million combined. Yet Paul Brown Stadium alone cost $455 million and the Great American Ballpark, the Reds’ home a few hundred yards down the Ohio River, cost $337 million by the time it opened in 2003.

    The generous deal for the Bengals has been a sore spot. The team had to pay rent only through 2009 on its 26-year lease, and has to cover the cost of running the stadium only for game days. Starting in 2017, the county will reimburse the team for these costs, too. The county will pay $8.5 million this year to keep the stadium going.

    Link to read the rest of the article:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/25/sp...dium.html?_r=1

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    Unsolicited Opinions traderumor's Avatar
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    Re: NY Times article about Cincinnati stadiums

    I see the biggest opportunity here as continuing to develop the riverfront. I know money is tight for everyone, but there is so much opportunity to turn that into its own community that will attract tourist dollars.

    If you build something distinctive down there where people can hang out and spend money on a game day, or on a weekend, then everyone wins, including the Reds, who have higher attendance. Right now, there is nothing for us out of towners to do before or after the game but drive in and get in your car and leave either for a hotel in the suburbs or catch a day game and drive back home. More people staying downtown means more sales and bed taxes to the county.

    We love Cincy and would like to spend a couple of days down there and catch a few ballgames, but who wants to get in their car and drive all over the countryside for activities?
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    Re: NY Times article about Cincinnati stadiums

    Quote Originally Posted by macro View Post
    So, what do you think? Was it worth it? What would the riverfront look like today, otherwise?
    It'd be a muddy hole in the ground, the same way it is now and the same way it will be 5 years from now.

    This Banks project is a total pipe dream that is destined to either never make it off the ground or, if it does, be so half-assed and poorly done that it'll be vacant within a decade.

    Cincinnati is incapable of doing anything properly at a civic level. It's run by people who are worried about what people might think and cowing to loudmothed morons like Christopher Smitherman and Chris Finney as opposed to making smart decisions. I wouldn't trust the mayor and city council to run a Big Boy, much less a major metropolitan city. Same goes for the county commissioners.

    In a way, this article made me long for the days of Bob Bedinghaus -- who at least made a decision (even if it was terrible) and paid for it with his job. The current crop of people all just refuse to act. They won't raise taxes because it might cost them votes. They won't rollback tax credits because it might cost them votes. They won't cut pet projects because it might cost them votes. It's just decision paralysis while the county drifts towards disaster.
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    Re: NY Times article about Cincinnati stadiums

    I thought the stadium deals at the time were a huge sham. Heck, the owners put up nothing, and got everything. And the Reds cry broke all the time. I do have to give the Bengals some credit, they locked up Palmer, and they do pay for players on occasion.

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    Be the ball Roy Tucker's Avatar
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    Re: NY Times article about Cincinnati stadiums

    I still maintain that the City/County screwed the pooch by building GABP on the Banks instead of Broadway Commons.

    Like CE said, the Banks is a pipe dream and the version I saw in the paper a couple weeks ago looked very watered down and won't amount to anything.

    And instead, we'll have a Biff World casino on Broadway Commons that will generate untold controversy.

    bah.

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    breath westofyou's Avatar
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    Re: NY Times article about Cincinnati stadiums

    My buddy from Oakland went to Paul Brown Stadium last weekend and said it put the Raiders and the Niners joints to shame.

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    Re: NY Times article about Cincinnati stadiums

    Quote Originally Posted by westofyou View Post
    My buddy from Oakland went to Paul Brown Stadium last weekend and said it put the Raiders and the Niners joints to shame.
    It's a beautiful facility. I've watched games from the stands and from a luxury box -- both experiences are fantastic. It's one of the few football stadiums I've ever seen that actually has an interesting look to it.

    But, it is what it is: a building that gets used 11-12 times per year.
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    Re: NY Times article about Cincinnati stadiums

    Quote Originally Posted by westofyou View Post
    My buddy from Oakland went to Paul Brown Stadium last weekend and said it put the Raiders and the Niners joints to shame.
    Both stadiums are really nice, especially since Cast started pouring a little bit of money and personality into GABP when he bought the team. GABP is now starting to take on the look and feel that it should have had all along right from the beginning (well except for the quality product on the field), but better late than never, I suppose.

    I hope the Banks ends up fairly nice, but like CE I'm skeptical and pretty much consider that project a type of "I'll believe it when I see it" deal.

    If nothing else, when that Moerlein Lager House goes up then it'll at least give me a pretty sweet spot to hang out and drink beer prior to Reds games during the summer without having to cross the bridge to Newport. The current downtown options near the ballpark are rather uninspiring.
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    Re: NY Times article about Cincinnati stadiums

    The stadiums turned out very nice. That is the good part.

    The decision to build the stadiums was the correct one. The decision to build them on the riverfront was the wrong one.

    The riverfront acreage was very expensive, which drove up the cost of the stadiums. But the most important reason not to build on the riverfront was because that location destroyed most of the economic benefit to Hamilton County. The riverfront is basically an island isolated from the rest of the city and county. Because of the river and the freeway there was no room around the stadiums to build any businesses or adequate parking.

    In most cities there are many bars, restaurants and other businesses built right next to the stadiums that capitalize on all those people coming to the games. In Cincinnati that has not happened. Here people drive in to the city, park in a garage, watch the game and leave. There is very little economic benefit to the community derived from the sports teams -- and much of the reason for that is the location of the stadiums. It was doomed to failure from the start because of the poorly considered decision to build the stadiums in the worst possible location.

    A good portion of the limited economic spin-off now goes to northern Kentucky, whose residents refused to contribute any funds to help build the stadiums. I think those economic benefits should go to the residents of Hamilton County because they were the ones that did the right thing and agreed to a tax increase to pay for the stadiums.

    Since the people of Hamilton County are the only ones that stepped up to the plate to pay for the stadiums, they are the people that should have benefited from the economic spin-off. One stadium should have been built at Broadway Commons, where there was a lot of surrounding space available to build businesses that could have capitalized on the traffic and benefited the community with increased tax revenue. The other stadium should have been built in the center of Hamilton County somewhere where there is easier access than the downtown/riverfront fiasco we have now.

    I never understood the logic of putting stadiums next to the river. The city would be much more attractive with green space, park land, museums and amusement parks next to the river. Now we just have miles of ugly concrete parking lots, garages and run-down old buildings along the river.

    People will go to stadiums no matter where they are. We wasted a great resource (the riverfront) just to build two big stadiums that have nothing to do with the river. Stadiums around the country have been built in places where they revitalized urban areas and communities. We chose to build ours in a spot where there was zero chance of revitalizing anything.

    We got two great stadiums, but we could have gotten so much more.

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    Member Reds4Life's Avatar
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    Re: NY Times article about Cincinnati stadiums

    I wish PBS had a little more color to it. It's basically just concrete and green seats and padding.
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    Re: NY Times article about Cincinnati stadiums

    a dumb idea to begin with. If building these extravagant stadium was such a good idea then teams would finance them on their own.

    The county walked out on a limb and now seems surprised by how things have played out. I have zero sympathy for the county and the folks that let themselves be fooled into building stadiums for millionaires so could stuff their coffers with even more dollars.
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    Re: NY Times article about Cincinnati stadiums

    Quote Originally Posted by AtomicDumpling View Post

    A good portion of the limited economic spin-off now goes to northern Kentucky, whose residents refused to contribute any funds to help build the stadiums. .
    I don't think I have ever spent one nickel anywhere in Cincinnati prior to a game. I stay over the river in KY and spend all my money over there. It's just better over there than in Cincy.
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    Re: NY Times article about Cincinnati stadiums

    Quote Originally Posted by hebroncougar View Post
    I thought the stadium deals at the time were a huge sham. Heck, the owners put up nothing, and got everything. And the Reds cry broke all the time. I do have to give the Bengals some credit, they locked up Palmer, and they do pay for players on occasion.
    The Bengals have a salary floor that they must meet and a cap teams can't go over. If Baseball had that then teams would lock up legit talent and not just 3 or 4 teams could compete for the best talents in the league.

    Quote Originally Posted by Caveat Emperor View Post
    It's a beautiful facility. I've watched games from the stands and from a luxury box -- both experiences are fantastic. It's one of the few football stadiums I've ever seen that actually has an interesting look to it.

    But, it is what it is: a building that gets used 11-12 times per year.
    It gets used a little more than that. There are some concerts held there throughout the year. High school football games a few times a year. Still, its probably empty 330 times a year.

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    Re: NY Times article about Cincinnati stadiums

    Quote Originally Posted by flyer85 View Post
    a dumb idea to begin with. If building these extravagant stadium was such a good idea then teams would finance them on their own.
    If Cincinnati didn't do it, Los Angeles, San Antonio, Sacramento, etc. would have.

    Of course, if you don't care about having pro sports teams in your city, you can always take the view of "Screw it, let them go." But, that was an option that most people found somewhat unsavory.
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    Unsolicited Opinions traderumor's Avatar
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    Re: NY Times article about Cincinnati stadiums

    Quote Originally Posted by Caveat Emperor View Post
    If Cincinnati didn't do it, Los Angeles, San Antonio, Sacramento, etc. would have.

    Of course, if you don't care about having pro sports teams in your city, you can always take the view of "Screw it, let them go." But, that was an option that most people found somewhat unsavory.
    I think Cincinnati realizes that its pro sports is the primary attraction for the Queen City in the grand scheme of things and that losing it would be a bigger disaster than the current shortfall.
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