Officials in Hamilton County, Ohio are preparing to sell off a local hospital at half its 2006 value, then raid the county’s rainy day fund, all in order to help pay for Cincinnati’s boondoggle stadium deal.
The stadium deal, struck in 1996, built separate new facilities for the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals and the MLB’s Cincinnati Reds, but ended up costing local taxpayers far more than initially anticipated. The final bill to the county came in at $540 million, more than double its initial budget. The Wall Street Journal called the project “one of the worst professional sports deals ever struck by a local government — soaking up unprecedented tax dollars and county resources while returning little economic benefit.”
This year, Hamilton County is facing a $1.4 million budget deficit, largely due to debts incurred from the stadium deal. As a result, county officials are taking drastic steps to cover the shortfall, including selling a physical rehabilitation hospital for far less than it’s valued and withdrawing money from their rainy day fund. The Huffington Post has more:
If Hamilton County officials in Ohio were to post a sign outside Drake Center, a Cincinnati hospital the county plans to sell this week, the pitch might strike potential buyers as a little desperate: For Sale: physical rehabilitation hospital, valued in 2006 at nearly $30 million, available for $15 million cash this week. Must sell immediately. Local government has bills to pay.
Nearly 20 years after county officials promised that public financing for a pair of professional sports stadiums would help usher in a new era of economic vitality, the reality is somewhat different. The county’s agreement to build new stadium facilities for the Cincinnati Bengals and the Cincinnati Reds has been described as “one of the worst professional sports deals ever struck by a local government” by the Wall Street Journal. Now, the county is poised to sell Drake Center at a price that critics say is far too low, just to cover one year of stadium debts and related promises. Even the planned sale won’t stop the county from having to raid its rainy day fund to cover a $1.4 million budget shortfall.
To learn more about why stadium deals like these can end up fleecing the public, read this recent post about a proposed stadium using taxpayer dollars in Minnesota.