Wednesday, February 28, 2001

Gizmo may cost public

Bengals won't foot luxury-seat computer bill

By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Small computer screens will be installed on individual seats in a handful of NFL stadiums next year so fans in club seating areas and luxury boxes can watch replays from different angles, get real-time statistics and order food without getting up.

        But that won't happen in Cincinnati because the Bengals have decided not to pay for the new technology.

        However, taxpayers could pay for the so-called “smart seats” if they ever do come to Cincinnati. That's because of a clause in the Bengals' lease with Hamilton County that says taxpayers must foot the bill for a new technology if it's installed in 14 other NFL stadiums.

        Taxpayers also have to pay if public money is used to install the technology in just seven NFL stadiums.

        Brian McCarthy, an NFL spokesman, said the NFL negotiated the smart seat contract with ChoiceSeat Inc., but it will be up to individual teams to pay for the gizmos. Total cost is not known.

        The idea, he said, is to have smart seats in every pro football stadium. And, eventually, to have the computers on every seat of every stadium.

        “We'll have it in a handful of new stadiums for the 2001 season,” Mr. McCarthy said, indicating that Pittsburgh and Denver will be among the stadiums with the new technology.

        The Bengals say they don't think the technology will catch on, and say it is unfair to suggest they are waiting for smart seats to go into other stadiums so they get it free.

        “The places we've seen it tried — including a couple of Super Bowls — we just don't think it's gotten a good response,” Troy Blackburn, the Bengals' director of business development, said through a spokesman.

        Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune said the Bengals lease needs to be renegotiated so that taxpayers don't have to pay for smart seats, or any other new gadget that comes down the pike.

        “Here's an example of something that could happen and how the lease works to the disadvantage of the community,” Mr. Portune said.

        “In the best interest of this community, we need to revisit the lease.”


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