Friday, December 15, 2000

Bengals ordered to stop seat swap

By Kevin Aldridge
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        An appellate court has blocked the Cincinnati Bengals' efforts to enact a voluntary ticket relocation program for disgruntled season-ticket holders.

        The Ohio First District Court of Appeals granted an injunction Thursday prohibiting the Bengals from proceeding with a program that would allow charter ownership agreement (COA) holders to change seats at Paul Brown Stadium after this season.

        In an effort to minimize confusion and protect season-ticket holders from losing their seat license rights, the three-judge panel or dered the Bengals to suspend the program until a pending lawsuit against the team and Hamilton County could be settled.

        A group of season-ticket holders has filed a class-action suit against the Bengals, claiming seats they were assigned in Paul Brown Stadium were not equal to the seats they were promised and had paid for. The highest-priced zones of seats were oversold, the suit claims. The ticket holders are seeking damages of $300 to $500 per seat license for a total of several million dollars.

        Cincinnati lawyer Janet G. Abaray, who is representing the season-ticket holders, said she asked for the injunction because many season-ticket holders were becoming confused by the Bengals' offer to relocate seats.

        The team sent a letter to season-ticket holders late last month stating that anyone choosing to participate in the program would be asked to fill out a form speci fying areas in the stadium to which they would like to relocate. The form has to be turned in by Dec. 31 and a refundable, 20 percent deposit for the 2001 season has to be paid by Jan. 31 or fans would forfeit their COAs and their seats.

        “The deadlines began to scare a lot of people and confuse them about what to do,” Ms. Abaray said. “They didn't want to miss what they thought was an opportunity to have their seats relocated.”

        But Ms. Abaray said that, while the Bengals' proposal to relocate seats looked promising, in reality it was just the opposite. Though the Bengals did offer to relocate dissatisfied fans in more expensive sections to less expensive sections at no cost, fans wanting to move the opposite way would have to pay the difference, she said.

        “And that's not what these people want,” said Mrs. Abaray.

        Bengals attorney Robert Stachler said the relocation program was never offered as a settlement to the lawsuit pending against the team.


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