Saturday, March 29, 2003

Bengals official objects to stadium comparison story

Letter to the editor

On March 31, Cincinnati will celebrate another Opening Day. This year's Opening Day will inaugurate a new baseball park that will become a cornerstone of the city's exciting new riverfront. The Bengals join in celebrating that opening as a great day for the Reds and a significant milestone for this community.

This is a time when Cincinnati should be celebrating its accomplishments. Instead, the Enquirer served the cause of dividing this community with its March 18 report comparing Paul Brown Stadium and Great American Ball Park. I hesitate to call the report a "news story," because it is replete with false material and half-truths about the Bengals and Paul Brown Stadium.

Making the report even more egregious - and quite apparently biased - is the fact the Enquirer ignored an elementary tenet of journalism by making no attempt to contact the Bengals for our side of the issue. The Reds and Hamilton County were contacted for comments, however.

As regards "facts," I would make the following points, which are in stark contrast to what the Enquirer reported:

•The principal reason that Paul Brown Stadium exceeded its budget was increased costs that arose when the city forced the stadium onto privately owned land - nowhere mentioned in your report.

•The Bengals did not create construction changes that increased costs. If we had, the lease required us to pay for it - and the few changes we did make were approved by the project team and paid for by the Bengals. Look it up - it's all documented.

•The entire Paul Brown Stadium project team worked very well together and brought one of the most architecturally celebrated NFL stadia in on time. If your reporter had bothered to talk with the architects or construction managers on the job, he would have learned the truth.

•Both teams had full-time representatives on their project to provide timely input from the clubs - not just the Reds as you imply. Indeed, the overall staffing for the two projects was very similar.

•Rather than increasing costs, the Bengals worked closely with project managers to eliminate tens of millions of dollars from stadium costs when cost estimates increased. And when costs outstripped the budget, the Bengals did not seek to add unbudgeted upgrades. Again, these were easily ascertainable facts your reporter apparently chose to overlook.

•The Bengals asked the project team to consider adding items only when early bidding showed what appeared to be considerable savings. When the surplus dollars evaporated, so did requests to spend the surplus.

•The Bengals provided considerable private dollars beyond what your article implied. The Enquirer had previously reported the correct figure, and the inaccurate report of March 18 casts real doubt upon your credibility.

•The Bengals did not saddle Hamilton County with the responsibility for cost overruns. Instead, the Bengals offered to be responsible for cost overruns, so long as the club could control construction and thereby contain this risk. Hamilton County felt unable to do this.

It is unfortunate that - at a time when Cincinnati has so much to be proud of - the Enquirer chooses to continue a long-standing effort to criticize this town's landmark projects that are rebuilding the riverfront. One would think that three years after Paul Brown Stadium opened, the Enquirer would stop its half-truths and misstatements, but no end appears in sight.

Instead of joining with you in downgrading our town, I am going to attend Opening Day and celebrate the christening of Great American Ball Park. I will also look with excitement towards this town's next point of civic pride when the Freedom Center opens next year.

Cincinnati has much to cheer about. We'll let you "boo" by yourself.

Troy A. Blackburn,
Director of Business Development, Cincinnati Bengals

Editor's note: The Enquirer stands by its story.

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