Supporters of a proposal in Cincinnati to tax tickets to fund operations of the city’s two major sports stadiums failed to gather enough signatures to put the initiative on the November ballot, but they are pushing ahead to put it on a ballot in the spring.
The group Citizens’ League Against Subsidized Sports (CLASS) attempted to gather 7,468 signatures on a petition by today, September 9, to place the initiative on the November ballot but came up short by about 3,000 signatures.
“For the two months we were able to circulate petitions our group did an admirable job and we are better than halfway home,” Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune told TicketNews. Portune is spearheading the proposal separate from his position on the county commission; Cincinnati is in Hamilton County.
“From a fiscal standpoint, the key element is to pass the measure prior to the [Cincinnati] Bengals 2012 season, which both November and May 2012 accomplish,” Portune added.
The proposed tax would vary depending on operational deficits at Paul Brown Stadium, where the Bengals play, and the Great American Ball Park, home to the Cincinnati Reds. This year, operating costs for the stadiums are about $9 million for Paul Brown Stadium and $1 million for the Great American Ball Park, which the city pays. The tax would shift the financial burden from all taxpayers to only those who buy tickets to events at the two stadiums, or in essence a “users’ fee.”
With state and municipal budgets being squeezed, and the economy still weak, some governments and citizens of areas with sports teams are taking an increasingly hard look at teams that seek public money for new or renovated stadiums or operating costs. In Minnesota, the Vikings football team is seeking a new stadium, following the collapse of the dome roof at its current home. The team is looking for about $650 million in funding from state and county coffers to help build it, more than $200 more than the Vikings are putting up for the proposed project.
Exact figures for how much extra ticket buyers might pay if the stadium tax is eventually passed is unknown, but Bengals fans stand to pay the most extra because operating costs are significantly higher at Paul Brown Stadium than at the Great American Ball Park. Estimates place the additional costs per ticket at close to $10, which could also trickle down to and cause ticket brokers to raise their prices for Bengals tickets on the resale market.
“We are going to gear up to collect signatures outside of the polls on election day this November,” Portune said. The group also has its own Web site. “We will have a far better likelihood of getting good signatures as people leave the polls than any other collection activity.”