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Bengals Role in Fight Between Cincinnati and Hamilton County

The Cincinnati Bengals are standing in the middle of a confrontation between the city of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.

When the Bengals fell 27-3 to Pittsburgh on Monday Night, it was the 11th time Cincinnati started a season 0-4. It’s a crisis. Fatal. Draft season. Should the Bengals start Ryan Finley? Cincinnati’s turntable continues playing a broken record, taking a 24-point loss to the Steelers on Monday Night Football, and now it’s rehashing familiar themes.

  • Ownership is terrible;
  • Scouting/personnel is questionable;
  • Coaches are in over their heads.
  • Talent isn’t that good.

These talking points were pronounced during dreadful seasons between Sam Wyche and Marvin Lewis.

Now they’re back.

If Cincinnati loses to the winless Arizona Cardinals this Sunday, they will join Bengals squads in 2008 (4 wins), 2002 (2), 2000 (4), 1994 (3), 1993 (3), 1991 (3), 1984 (8), 1979 (4), 1978 (4), to start a season with a five-game losing streak. Only the 1984 Bengals finished with more than more than four wins — they finished at .500 by winning 8 of their last 12 thanks to a bone-crushing defense. I wouldn’t expect that this year

However, the Bengals are in the news for other reasons. Cincinnati City Council rejected two resolutions relocating Hilltop Basic Resources to Queensgate on Wednesday, essentially killing a deal that would bring a music venue to The Banks.

Wait. How did we get here… and how are the Bengals involved… and why the sudden change in tone on this minimalistic blog post?

A proposal was announced in 2018 that brought a music venue, operated by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, to The Banks. The $19.25 million three-story building was proposed on Lot 27, essentially a parking lot southeast of Paul Brown Stadium. The Bengals, who according to their lease have a right of first refusal for any development around the stadium, rejected the plan, saying that it would impact tailgating. Again, why do the Bengals have any input regarding land that they do not own? The team’s lease with Hamilton County allows the Bengals to “veto development over two stories tall within a block of the stadium.”

“It has become a political issue,” Bengals owner Mike Brown said last August. “For us, for me, it’s relatively simple. My job is to protect the interest of our football team. My job is to help our fans have what they want. For our fans, it is better for them if they have this area for tailgating.” The family proposed Lot 24. Scott Wartman with the Cincinnati Enquirer points out “that a developer has proposed a $75 million residential and commercial development there.”

Several months later, the team relented and an agreement was reached. The music venue would be built on Lot 27; Hilltop Basic Resources, a concrete company on the river bank southwest of the stadium, would move; the Bengals would develop the 15-acre Hilltop site and build a new practice facility (which they’ve not committed to) and a parking lot for tailgating.

City Council would have to sign off.

They refused.

“The first motion, which passed 6-3, asked the Cincinnati Bengals to simply allow the music venue to go forward without requiring a series of concessions, such as moving a concrete plant to make way for a new tailgating lot,” writes the Cincinnati Enquirer. Obviously the Bengals won’t, publicly saying that “it remains committed to the deal as it’s been presented.”

Gamesmanship began.

Minutes after that vote, attorney Tom Gabelman stood outside council chambers and told the media the plan to relocate Hilltop to Queensgate was still on the table. Gabelman represents Hamilton County on matters involving The Banks and riverfront development. Hilltop CEO Kevin Sheehan also said they were still open to moving to Queensgate.

“Cincinnati City Council hadn’t adjourned. And they wanted to make doubly clear that this deal would not be happening. As the meeting continued, Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley, learned via text of Gableman’s remarks. Council then voted on a hastily scrawled handwritten motion, declaring the city will oppose moving a concrete plant to Queensgate or Lower Price Hill. It passed 6-0.

NOTE: According to WCPO, “the county paid $821,264 to Gabelman’s law firm” and has “spent $443,200 for seven months” in 2019.”

Tension between Hamilton County and the city of Cincinnati is mounting. City Council essentially killed the Music Venue, opposing the Hilltop move, thus refusing the Cincinnati Bengals space for a parking lot and a practice facility (Lol, like that’s going to happen).

The question now, what’s next?

“The music venue deal is not dead by a long shot,” Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune said after the vote. “A relocation approach in the county outside of the city or elsewhere will open up the area for all of the work that needs to be done. And none of it involves or requires the city’s approval.”

“Bringing a music venue to the Banks does not require spending taxpayer money to relocate Hilltop,” Cranley said in a statement to The Enquirer. “The county still hasn’t told us how much they are paying Hilltop and should share with taxpayers what Plan B is.”

Yea, this gonna get nasty.

An alternative question, posed by political columnist Jason Williams, why should County extend the lease with the Bengals:

As county officials go back to the drawing board, they must address the elephant that’s gone unnoticed for the past several months. This whole thing is really about the Bengals’ future – not a music venue – and it’s time to ask the tough question:

Does Cincinnati want the Bengals to stay or go after their stadium lease ends in 2026?

Voters, not politicians, should decide the answer through a referendum on the extension of the stadium sales tax. The sooner this goes on the ballot – how about 2020 or 2021? – the better off both county taxpayers and the Bengals will be.

Many residents were against the plan of moving Hilltop, per the Enquirer:

Dozens of residents, many wearing “No asphalt, No concrete shirts” turned out to voice their opposition, as they have done at previous meetings. They do not want a concrete plant and asphalt plant moved to their neighborhood, which is part of the deal. Many felt their needs were being ignored to placate the Cincinnati Reds and Bengals. The on-field futility of both organizations came up multiple times.

If Cincinnati wasn’t filled with drama, we wouldn’t know what to do with ourselves.

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