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Commissioner: Reds should cover ballpark debt with their billions in profits

Cincinnati RedsSince the Cincinnati Reds are generating billions — billions! — of profits from Great American Ball Park, it’s about time the team steps up to cover debt service on the facility, instead of taxpayers, according to a Hamilton County Commissioner.

Of course, the owners of the Reds aren’t making billions off the operations of the team — and the owners of the Cincinnati Bengals aren’t generating billions in profits, either, but that’s not stopping Todd Portune from demagoguing the heck out of the issue of shortfalls in revenues for GABP and Paul Brown Stadium. Portune says that since the teams make $9 billion annually in profits — yes, he did say that — they should be covering the $18-million deficit expected for the county’s stadium fund next year; if the teams don’t want to cover the deficit, those benefiting from the game experience should pay a ticket tax.

We’re trying to figure out where this guy was educated, because math or business certainly was not in his background. There’s no way the Reds or the Bengals — or even combined — generate $9 billion in profits annually; heck, they don’t even generate a billion dollars annually in gross revenues. (Forbes pegs the Reds as generating $179 million in revenue in 2010; the Bengals generating $232 million in revenue in 2009.) And it would take a heckuva ticket tax on the 482,000 fans attending Bengals games annually and 2.06 million fans attending Reds games annually to make up a shortfall — over $7 a ducat. His final solution: put the issue on a fall ballot and let voters decide who covers the shortfall.

Figuring out how to cover the deficit in the county stadium fund is certainly a sticky issue, and one that requires careful thought; at some point both teams will probably need to make some concessions or come up with some additional revenue. But arguments like Portune’s don’t actually advance the discussion: they’re so far-fetched that they contribute nothing to an actual solution.


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