On Jan. 30, in its flagship Sunday print edition, The Cincinnati Enquirer bannered a headline suggesting that the Bengals were making new and steep financial demands on Hamilton County. Unadorned by any explanation from a secondary headline, it blared to readers: "Bengals Want $43 Million for Stadium Upgrades."
The headline was not accurate in any reasonable sense. It conjured the Bengals having the gross insensitivity, in these sensitive economic times, to suddenly demand a laundry list of fancy new toys for Paul Brown Stadium. But the story -- surely not read carefully by even a modest percentage of those exposed to the huge headline -- failed to support that.
The story explained that the $43 million figure covered 10 years worth of long-anticipated maintenance, part of a plan to keep PBS from the appalling deterioration that afflicted Riverfront Stadium in the 1990s. And despite the headline's implication, the money was in no way a new demand. The Enquirer's source, in fact, proved to be a two-year-old "capital asset schedule" generated by the stadium manager in response to a County request.
The majority of the items on the list of potential "capital repairs" were mundane maintenance items. Things like replacing deep well pumps that keep the stadium from flooding, painting the structural steel, carpeting, furniture replacement and the like.
The only item even slightly above the most basic maintenance level was $8 million for an upgraded scoreboard. And it's undeniable that the scoreboard, now 11 years old, will need to be replaced sometime in the next 10 years. To ignore this would be to repeat the mistakes that were made at Riverfront Stadium, rendering it impossible for the stadium to be renovated to meet the needs of the teams.
Also in the Enquirer story -- though of course not referenced in any headline type -- were these two points:
- That the County conceded PBS "might indeed need that much work."
- That an outside expert deemed as "reasonable" the estimated $35 million in basic infrastructure maintenance over the 10-year period.
In dialogue conducted since Jan. 30, The Enquirer has acknowledged to the Bengals that its headline presentation was flawed. We appreciate that. But of course no such message has been conveyed to the public, and so we ask our readers today to consider the widespread mistaken assumptions this headline surely caused.
And that's our "extra point."
Jack Brennan has been Bengals public relations director since 1994. He has been a Cincinnati resident since 1983, when he began a 10-year Queen City stint as a sports writer, first with the Cincinnati Post and later with the Enquirer.
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