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DECISION '96: HAMILTON COUNTY OK'S BENGALS AND REDS PARKS
Published March 20, 1996
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).