Tuesday, February 13, 2001

Bengals seat settlement may top $1.5M

By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Satisfying Bengals' season ticket holders unhappy with their seats in Paul Brown Stadium could cost taxpayers $1.5 million or more.

        That's the estimate from Bengals and Hamilton County officials, both of whom have been sued by six fans who claim they paid for seat licenses to buy season tickets in specific locations, then were assigned seats in less desirable areas.

        More than 350 fans have expressed interested in joining the lawsuit if it's granted class-action status.

        Fans paid between $1,500 and $150 for the licenses. Some fans, seated in different sections than they paid for, want a partial refund; others want to give up their tickets and get a total re fund. Some want their seats reassigned into the section they paid for.

        Troy Blackburn, Bengals' director of business development, said the team has been urging Hamilton County to give cheated fans their money back since September. The county sold the seat licenses.

        What's taken so long?

        “You had a major election in county government going on,” Mr. Blackburn said, referring to the commission race between stadium champion Bob Bedinghaus and current Commissioner Todd Portune. “We've had settlement proposals out to the county for three months.”

        That claim doesn't ring true with Carl Stich, assis tant prosecuting attorney who is handling the case for the county.

        “Then I don't know who they were talking to when they made the proposals,” Mr. Stich said. County Administrator David Krings also said the Bengals never approached him about resolving the case early.

        Janet Abaray, attorney for the fans, said any talk of a settlement is premature. She said her clients — and the public that is paying for the stadium — deserve to know why some fans were cheated.

        “Let's suppose we find evidence the Bengals took some of the best seats and gave them to advertisers to enhance revenues,” Ms. Abaray said. “The Bengals are simply trying to undercut the jurisdiction of (the court).”


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