7-1-02, 6:25 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
The Bengals had their record broken Sunday, but they hope it breaks new ground when it comes to the community's view of Paul Brown Stadium.
A stadium record 65,600 came through the turnstiles on the final night of the Billy Graham mission weekend, jacking the four-day attendance to 200,136. The Sunday crowd bested the 64,217 that saw the Bengals beat the Browns back on Oct. 14 before the largest crowd to ever see a Cincinnati sports event.
Those attendance figures coincided with the announcement this past weekend that last November's high school playoff doubleheader at PBS actually drew 48,589, another record, this one for high school playoff games in Ohio. It translated into the most profitable football tournament date ever for the Ohio High School Athletic Association at $148,400.
"It's a great thing for the city and we were glad we could be a part of it," said Bengals President Mike Brown Monday as workers began preparing PBS for the Aug. 24 pre-season opener against the Saints.
"It shows that the stadium can be used by groups other than Bengals' fans during certain parts of the year and we think that can be a big boost to the community in many ways," Brown said. "More than two hundred thousand people came downtown to be here and there can't be anything wrong with that."
But the crowds aren't the only numbers encouraging the team and stadium officials. The Bengals believe a tax analysis based on reports from the web site of Hamilton County Auditor Dusty Rhodes and the 2000 census shows the stadium and the half-cent sales tax hike that funded it
is also proving to be a help to taxpayers.
In 2000, the tax generated about $61 million, with just over half ($33 million) coming from Hamilton County taxpayers. The remainder, according to the tax analysis, was paid by non-resident visitors.
The analysis also showed the first $18.3 million dollars came back to Hamilton County homeowners in the form of a property tax rebate. By providing a direct benefit to County taxpayers, figures show the rebate operates to lower the percentage of the tax borne by County residents to 36 percent of the net costs of the projects being funded by the sales tax. Non-residents pay the rest.
Of the tax dollars that did not go directly to taxpayers ($42 million in 2000), Cincinnati Public Schools are set to receive $4.9 million this year. On Tuesday, that figure was revised down from $7 million, but it is to rise after the Reds' new Great American Ballpark opens next year.
With that revision, that leaves $37 million to pay for two stadiums (instead of $35 million) at the same tax levels as 2000. It also pays for:
Utilities for riverfront development.
According to the analysis, the property tax rebate value per 189,240 eligible households in the county is worth $96.70 compared to the $96.27 the tax costs per household, which means the annual cost of the tax to the average county homeowner is virtually zero.
In addition to the numbers, the Graham experience convinced stadium officials that the building can respond to a big event. Eric Brown, the stadium manager, said this past weekend's crowd (which included nearly 63,000 for two events on Saturday) showed it.
"It proved to the fire department that we can take a sold-out event without assigned seating and do a good job with crowd management," Eric Brown said. "It's just another reason why we think we can take a look at concerts and any other major event. Anything that doesn't do a lot of damage to the grass, like tractor pulls and motorcycles."
The Bengals split half the rent with Hamilton County on all non-team events in the building. One of the concerns is always the damage to the grass field.
PBS officials were pleasantly surprised Monday by the amount of green grass that was left on the field when the woven plastic tarp was taken off the surface. They were also surprised by how uneven the ground was in certain spots and they won't know how much of the field has to be re-sodded until the entire field is rolled on Monday.
"The covering did what the mission people said it would," Eric Brown said. "They said it would keep the grass from getting too overstressed and it would reflect the heat upward. I think we've found our product of choice there. It held up well."
Eric Brown figures about 25 percent of the field has to be re-sodded, which accounts for the grass under a plywood road leading to the stage, as well as the eight pedestals anchoring the stage. Officials won't know how much grass was lost under the stage until it is removed Tuesday.