As if cheering for a struggling team is not bad enough, fans of the Cincinnati Bengals may have to pay considerably more to see them play at Paul Brown Stadium if a proposed stadium tax is approved.
Cincinnati is running deficits for the operation of its stadiums, and the proposal would generate revenue to help address that and shift the burden from the general tax-paying populace to those fans who use the stadiums.
The proposed tax would be a variable percentage rate on ticket sales for games and events at the stadiums, based on that year’s operational deficits. In addition to Paul Brown Stadium, the tax would also affect the Cincinnati Reds baseball team, who play at the nearby Great American Ball Park.
The issue of who should pay for stadiums, whether building them and/or operating them, has been the subject of ongoing debates in states and municipalities with professional sports teams, as teams seek new stadiums while governments look for ways to keep costs down. For example, the Sacramento Kings and the Minnesota Vikings are among the teams currently vying for new homes.
Annual operating costs for Paul Brown Stadium are nearly $9 million, while it reportedly costs just under $1 million a year to operate the Great American Ball Park, despite the Reds hosting 10-times the number of home games as the football stadium. With far fewer home games, Bengals fans could see ticket prices rise by an estimated $10 or more per ticket under the proposal. Reds fans would see a significantly smaller potential increase per ticket. The city currently charges a 3 percent tax on tickets, but the new proposal would be a separate tax on top of the current levy.
The proposed measure requires a vote by residents, but whether it will appear on the ballot this November reportedly is an open question because the deadline to submit a petition with the signatures of more than 7,000 certified voters expires this Friday, September 9. Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune, who is spearheading the proposal and petition drive, recently admitted the task may prove too daunting.
Portune did not immediately return a message seeking comment, and his chief of staff was not able to comment. If enough signatures are not gathered, Portune may consider trying again.
“The important thing is to get on (the ballot) and get it passed before the 2012 Bengals season,” Portune told the Middletown Journal newspaper, but added that he did not think they would gather the 7,468 signatures needed in time. A little over 4,000 signatures have been obtained so far.
“The tax is structured to collect money from Reds games to cover Reds’ expenses, and Bengals games to cover Bengals’ expenses,” he said.