In Hamilton County, Ohio, there's a lot more riding on Cincinnati Reds and Bengals games than some civic pride. The county alone shouldered the estimated $540 million burden of the Reds' Great American Ballpark and the Bengals' Paul Brown Stadium. While the Reds' stadium stayed on budget and has done a good job of sustaining itself without much help, Paul Brown Stadium has become a burden that is breaking the county.
Originally billed as a means of generating jobs and revenue, Paul Brown Stadium came in $280 million over budget when it was completed in 2000. The final cost fell between $350 million and $555 million, depending on how much you value costs such as infrastructure and parking facilities, but Hamilton County assumed $1 billion in total debt by issuing its own bonds without help from other counties or the state.
Paying the debt alone will create a roughly $30 million budget deficit for the county this year. Add annual stadium costs to taxpayers that rose from $29.9 million in 2008 to $34.6 million in 2010 and sales tax revenue that's declined steadily since 2000 and it's a crushing blow, especially for local programs.
The county's juvenile court lost $13.4 million in funding from 2008 through 2010. Other youth programs were nixed altogether. A property tax cut that was part of the deal was rolled back last year.
If there's any doubt about Hamilton County residents feeling robbed by the deal, just check out attendance of late. The team has failed to sell out 10 of its past 16 home games, including six games during a playoff run this year.