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Hamilton County voters yesterday "overwhelmingly ratified" a half-cent sales tax increase to build two new stadiums for the Reds and Bengals, according to Michaud & Green of the CINCINNATI ENQUIRER. Despite poor weather, turnout was a record in a primary election. With close to all precincts reporting, Issue I on the stadium tax led, 61% to 39%. Bengals GM Mike Brown hugged Reds Owner Marge Schott before addressing a pro-stadium rally and called it the "greatest moment in my life." OH Gov. George Voinovich said citizens voted to "maintain Cincinnati as a major league city." The vote will raise the sales tax in Hamilton County from 5.5% to 6% beginning June 1. The tax would raise around $50M each year, of which Hamilton County would use $35M a year to build the stadiums. The rest would fund property tax relief. The Bengals will pay $25-30M toward the estimated $170M football stadium, while Schott is in discussions with officials on their contribution. Proponents say the total cost of the project will hit $700M when interest payments are included, up from preliminary estimates of $544.2M. Hamilton County Commissioner Bob Bedinghaus said work to complete the financing for the stadium will begin immediately (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 3/20). TIGER BY THE TAIL? As election day approached, "speculation increased" the Bengals might move to Cleveland if the tax failed (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 3/20). After the vote, Brown admitted filling a 70,000-seat stadium and selling over 70 boxes will be difficult. Local economists are also "skeptical" the city's corporate community will support both teams (Akron BEACON JOURNAL, 3/20).
Voters in Detroit yesterday voted a "resounding" yes on allowing the city to use public money for a new ballpark, according to this morning's DETROIT NEWS. Early returns showed Proposal B, a non-binding measure which would allow public funds be spent on a new facility, leading by more than a 2-1 margin. Proposal A, which would have "barred the use of public money for a new stadium," was being rejected by about the same margin. Team and city officials were pleased, and the Tigers could be playing in the new park as early as '98. Voters were asked whether they would permit $40M in Downtown Development Authority bonds to help finance the $240M facility. Tigers Owner Mike Ilitch has pledged $145M, while $55M would come through the quasi-public Michigan Strategic Fund. Voters said they "were swayed by the promises of economic rebirth and a revitalized downtown" (Basheda, Lewis, & Linsalata, DETROIT NEWS, 3/20). WHAT'S NEXT? The opposition Tiger Stadium Fan Club has "one more weapon in their arsenal" -- a lawsuit challenging the $55M grant from the Michigan Strategic Fund (Basheda, Lewis, & Linsalata, DETROIT NEWS, 3/20).
The city of Oakland may ask a Superior Court judge for an injunction forcing the A's to play their first six home games at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, according to this morning's OAKLAND TRIBUNE. The announcement, which came after a City Council meeting last night, "significantly escalated the war" between the Coliseum and A's over stadium renovations. Council Member Ignacio De La Fuente said the A's decision to move their home opener was an insult and that they will "do whatever has to be done to protect our reputation and make sure they follow their agreement." Robert Salladay writes the injunction could "affect the already-strained-relationship" the city has with the team (OAKLAND TRIBUNE, 3/20). Most reports have the team playing its first two home series in Las Vegas at the 10,000-seat Cashman Field, but talks have gotten off to "a poor start," according to the SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS. Sources say the A's asked for a guarantee of $1.05M for six games, while Las Vegas' initial offer was for about $300,000 -- later upped to about $500,000. A's GM Sandy Alderson expects a deal today, but one cannot be reached, the team would likely open in New Orleans (Robert Kuwada SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 3/20).
The Palladium Corp. and its general contractor, PCL Constructors Eastern Inc, have been named in a lawsuit brought by a sub-contractor over a $5M unpaid construction bill for the recently completed Corel Centre (TORONTO SUN, 3/19)....Officials with Astrodome USA withdrew their request that Harris County reimburse them nearly $500,000 for emergency fire-code repairs made to the county-owned Astrodome (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 3/20)....Maricopa County Supervisors are expected to approve today a series of agreements with the Diamondbacks governing the use and management of Bank One Ballpark for the next 30 years. The deals could increase taxpayers' share of annual stadium revenues to $5.5M. In return, the team would avoid potential exposure to taxes normally charged to businesses leasing public space (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 3/20)....The Minneapolis Sports Facilities Commission preliminary approved allowing the Twins to sell Metrodome ads to the Lottery. A left-center field wall ad would generate $100,000 for the Twins (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 3/19).