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The Bengals’ home playoff game Sunday may generate $14M

The Bengals’ home playoff game Sunday could be a $14 million post-Christmas boon for the region, counting ticket prices, bar business, restaurant tabs, various taxes and incidental spending.

That’s a rough estimate from Jeffry Rexhausen, senior research associate at the University of Cincinnati Economics Center, who has studied playoff game impacts from the past.

And then there are the benefits that can’t be measured in dollars and cents: the exposure the city will get from out-of-town visitors and national TV viewers who will see shots of a vibrant Downtown, Over-the-Rhine and landmarks around the region.

“It’s one of those opportunities that not every city gets,” said Julie Calvert, a vice president with the Cincinnati USA Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Sunday will be the first time the Bengals have hosted a playoff game since Jan. 9, 2010. But the moment would be even financially sweeter, some say, if the Bengals were playing the hated Pittsburgh Steelers instead of the San Diego Chargers, whose West Coast fans will be making a lot fewer trips.

“While personally I am happy the Steelers didn’t make it, it would have actually put a lot more money in my pocket,” Downtown restaurateur Jeff Ruby said. “When Pittsburgh is in town, we are just packed.”

Here’s a quick look at how the region could benefit:

Restaurants, hotels filling up for entire weekends

The game is “tremendously important” to bars, restaurants, retailers and entertainment venues around Downtown and The Banks, said Mindy Rosen, spokeswoman for the nonprofit Downtown Cincinnati Inc.

Downtown merchant Koch Sporting Goods is typically open for three hours prior to kickoff when the Bengals play at home, and Rosen said it sold as much merchandise last Sunday as it does during a typical nine-hour day.

At the Holy Grail Tavern and Grille at The Banks, the phone has been ringing nonstop with calls asking about Sunday service.

“This is going to be one of our top five days of the year. You can just smell the buzz,” manager Nick Ramsey said. “We expect it to be an all-day party like the season opener on Monday night and Opening Day.”

The restaurant expects to sell at least 20 percent to 25 percent more than the usual 7,200 bottles of beer that normally go out on a Bengals Sunday game.

“We’ve been calling in extra staff,” Ramsey said.

Across the way, the Moerlein Lager House is gearing up for a banner day. And crowds are expected at the Sunday brunch before gametime at the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza.

“We always have a huge demand on Sundays for Bengals home games, and we’re expecting even more this weekend,” hotel general manager Michel Sheer said.

The hotel still had vacant rooms Tuesday, but Sheer said bookings are up, and every room generates tax revenue for the region.

“The question will be how big is the San Diego travel base, and not just from California, but from around the region,” he said. Bengals fans, he said, also “are looking to make a night of it either before or after the game.”

All told, there are about 6,000 hotel rooms in downtown Cincinnati.

Nonprofits, concessionaires and city image all get a boost

While appearing at a Bengals press conference to ask fans to buy tickets, Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley pointed out that at least 2,500 stadium workers will get an extra day’s pay. In addition, many of the concession stands are staffed by volunteers working for nonprofit agencies that will get an extra day’s proceeds.

“But there’s also a bigger impact here,” the mayor said. “Hosting an NFL home playoff game is a tremendous opportunity to show off the wonderful progress and excitement of Cincinnati. Paul Brown Stadium is a beautiful facility where you can see all of the Downtown skyline, the bridge, The Banks. (The game) obviously brings people down, not only for tailgating, but for after-parties and for our restaurants, et cetera. When people talk about an opportunity for us to brag to the world about the success our city is having, this is it.”

At least one concessionaire isn’t counting on a payday, though. Randy Dietz, co-owner of Main Events Concessions in Union, says his cotton candy is a loser seller at playoff games.
“Those games are all about the adults, and they only buy beer.”

Tax coffers also grow thanks to the extra game

A Hamilton County ticket tax means the county collects 25 cents for every ticket sold.

That means the game could generate an extra $16,712 if all 66,846 seats in Paul Brown Stadium sell out. A sellout was still in question Tuesday.

What isn’t in doubt is that the city of Cincinnati will collect about $49,000 from a 2.1 percent payroll tax levied on the football players.

During a regular season game, the tax is figured on one-seventeenth of each player’s normal salary. In the case of the playoff, however, the tax is figured on $23,000 earned by each Bengal for appearing as a division winner, and $21,000 earned by each Charger for winning a wild card slot.
That’s a total payroll of $2.33 million, given each team is allowed 53 players on its active roster (although only 46 players can actually dress for the game).