Top 9 epic events in Bengals history: The stadium deal

To commemorate the 50th year of the Bengals, we’re looking back at nine Epic Events that shaped the history of the franchise. Not Epic Moments -- although there are some of them on the list -- but events that had long-lasting effect.

One story will publish each day from now until the Bengals' season opener on Sept. 10.

No. 7: The stadium deal

If deal that led to the building of Paul Brown Stadium hadn’t happened, there might not be a 50th season for the Cincinnati Bengals.

"Might" is not a strong word. Let’s say there "probably" wouldn’t be a 50th season.

Back in 1993, team president Mike Brown listened to representatives from the city of Baltimore about moving the franchise there. Brown was frustrated with the lack of progress on a new stadium in Cincinnati. Baltimore was offering what we wanted: A 70,000-seat, open-air stadium with 100 luxury boxes.

"We recognize that there is a window of opportunity (in Baltimore), and it's not going to be open long," Brown told the Baltimore Sun at the time. "If nothing is done here quickly, our intention would be to take whatever action we think is best for our ball club.”

A deal, of course, was worked out. But it did not come quickly.

The controversy continued into 1994 and ’95.

Then-Hamilton County Commissioner Bob Bedinghaus came up with a plan for 1-percent hike in the county sales tax to fund two new stadiums. Cincinnati City Council voted 5-4 to go along with the plan just before a deadline of June 28 the Bengals had set.

Bedinghaus’ proposal, which was changed to a half-percent hike, was voted on March 19, 1996. It passed 61 percent to 39 percent.

It’s been debated ever since.

The Bengals signed a 30-year lease agreement in Sept. 10, 1996. They moved into Paul Brown Stadium in 2000.

The stadium ended up costing $459 million, including $51 million in cost overruns.

By the time it opened, Bedinghaus had been voted out of office. He'd been elected with 60 percent of the vote in ’92. His total was down to 43 percent in ’96, and he lost to current Commissioner Todd Portune.

"I had a difficult argument to make in that election,'' Bedinghaus said at the time. "I knew that every politician in every other city who had been the point man for building new stadiums lost their elections.”

His political career over, Bedinghaus eventually took a job with the Bengals. He’s currently the team’s director of business development.

Stadium deals have become increasingly hard to sell to the voters, and NFL teams have become increasingly mobile. The St. Louis Rams moved before last season, back to Los Angeles. The San Diego Chargers are moving to Los Angeles this year. The Oakland Raiders are moving to Las Vegas next year.

It’s a pretty good bet that the Bengals would be gone if the stadium deal had not gotten done. It remains controversial. But without it, The Banks would not likely be there, nor Smale Park along the Ohio River.

Wondering about the other epic events?

John Fay is a freelance sports columnist; this column represents his opinion. Contact him at johnfayman@aol.com.

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