Tuesday, April 18, 2000

Stadium contract delayed


County reopens bids to manage Bengals facility

BY HOWARD WILKINSON
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Hamilton County commissioners threw out all bids to manage the new Paul Brown Stadium Monday and will start from scratch, but backed off blaming the Cincinnati Bengals for the delay.

        Last week, Bengals' attorney W. Stuart Dornette sent county officials a letter saying that the company that submitted the lowest bid — Stadium Management Co. (SMC), which operates Cinergy Field — did not follow the rules for bidding and is not qualified to run the $300 million stadium, set to open in August.

        A company owned by the Bengals submitted its own bid to run the stadium. Mr. Dornette asked county officials to say whether they would toss out SMC's bid or “whether litigation should be commenced to do so.”

        Commissioners were angered Friday over the Dornette letter, which they said violates county policy prohibiting bidders to contact county officials during the bidding process.

        Friday, County Commissioner Bob Bedinghaus said “these sorts of insatiable demands on behalf of the Bengals wear thin after a while.”

        But, by Monday morning, when the commissioners met to pass a resolution throwing out the bids and starting over, commissioners had toned down their criticism of the Bengals' action.

        “It's arguable whether or not the contact (by the Bengals) was inappropriate, although, in my heart, I believe it was,” Mr. Bedinghaus said.

        The commissioners said Monday that there were a sufficient number of problems with the other bids submitted to start the process over again.

        Asking the companies to submit new bids will delay the signing of a contract to manage the new stadium by about five weeks. County Budget Director Suzanne Burke said county facilities workers will be able to manage the project for now.

        Later Monday, Mr. Dornette would not comment on what action the Bengals might take next or whether the Bengals would submit a new bid.

        In addition to Mr. Dornette's letter, Troy Blackburn, the Bengals' director of stadium development, wrote a letter to County Administrator David Krings, saying construction of the stadium is so far behind schedule that only one company — the Bengals' Paul Brown Stadium Management Co. — can get the program back on track and operate the building.

        Howard Jackson, president of SMC, told the commissioners Monday he disagreed with the county's contention that the other bidders failed to submit complete packages. “But we welcome the opportunity to rebid this,” Mr. Jackson said.

       



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