On Thursday the Bengals and Hamilton County reached the biggest deal since PBS opened in 2000.
In their most sweeping agreement since the original 1997 Paul Brown Stadium lease, the Bengals and Hamilton County signed a deal Thursday that continued the development of The Banks with the potential for 1,400 jobs, as well as upgrading the fan experience and expansion of player facilities.
Part of the deal also makes it possible for the Bengals to become part of the NFL’s international series and play a home game overseas.
The centerpiece of what the Bengals called a new era of cooperation with the county is an agreement on developmental guidelines that paves the way for the construction of a General Electric office building and more than 290 apartments.
“We are grateful to the State, the County and the City for their hard work in attracting GE to southwest Ohio,” said Bengals president Mike Brown in a press release after the Hamilton County Commissioners approved the project Thursday afternoon. "We wanted to demonstrate our interest in working together to ensure that The Banks is a viable location for this project. We all know that the Cincinnati area is a great place to live and work. Landing this project will let the nation know it as well.”
The Bengals and county also reached agreement on a number of issues that in the past have made the partnership rocky. For this project the parties compromised on the lease stipulation that the county is responsible for all stadium improvements with the team contributing $6 million to projects and improvements as PBS heads into its 15th season, with $2.5 million going to video boards for the 2015 season.
Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune called it “a new day,” and thanked the Bengals for their hard work and “cooperation and confirmed desire to turn the page and create a new working relationship.”
The Bengals and county are sharing in the cost of installing stadium-wide Wi-Fi with the Bengals funding the cost and allowing Hamilton County to spread out partial repayment over several years. Plus, the Bengals are picking up the more than $1 million tab for new furniture in the two club lounges that are home to an estimated 175 events a year.
“Very quietly we have been working with the County on a cooperative basis for some time now. Today, with the announcement of our financial participation in several stadium upgrades we are able to take that cooperation to a new level and put behind us several issues that in the past would likely have turned into battles,” Brown said in the statement. “These new improvements allow Paul Brown Stadium to remain an exciting place for local fans and the Bengals are happy to contribute to getting them done.
“We want to thank Commission President Chris Monzel, and Commissioners Greg Hartmann and Todd Portune. Their leadership in this effort made a real difference. We look forward to building upon this partnership, joining forces to serve the community’s long term interests. When we work together, the community comes out ahead.”
The Bengals also announced vice president Katie Blackburn’s appointment to the Joint Banks Steering Committee.
“I am looking forward to getting more involved as the development of The Banks continues. The riverfront has been our home since 1970. It is an exciting place to live, work and have fun. There is a lot of work ahead to make sure the promise of The Banks is fulfilled.”
The Bengals needed Hamilton County to agree to expand the locker room and add a new weight room in an overhaul that is going to cost the club $2 million. The new weight room is 60 percent bigger than the original and is going to be situated under the south end zone in unused space.
The locker room is going to expand into the players’ lounge, making it big enough to accommodate all 90 players, the training camp limit, and the plan is it should be ready by the time camp starts July 23.
The plan is for the current weight room to become the cafeteria and kitchen with the aerobic room across the hall converted to the players’ lounge. They may not be in place until after the season.