Monday, December 15, 2014

Hamilton County Gets Creative Replacing Stadium Seats

Sure, they could be worried about paying for road repairs or public safety, but Hamilton County did find a creative way to save some money while sinking more capital into their sports stadium debacle:
Faced with costs as high as $5 million, desperate county officials ended up turning the job of replacing 39,000 seats into a massive do-it-yourself project. They hired a local firm to design new molds for the seats, found a plastics company to make the seat backs and bottoms, and are paying former jail inmates and others about $10 an hour to install them.
About 17,000 of the new seats already are in place, and county officials say they're stronger, better looking, more durable and less expensive than the originals.
"We think we have not only a better product, it meets all specifications," said Joe Feldkamp, who oversees the stadiums for the county. "We're in the seat business now."
It's not a business the county ever expected to be in, especially so soon after the original seats were installed. Stadium seats typically would be expected to last as long as 20 to 25 years, but Feldkamp said Great American's seats began to fail as early as 2008, just five years after the stadium opened in 2003....
The original contract with Hussey was for about $3.4 million, but quotes from a competitor to replace the seats ran about $5 million. It was the middle of the recession, and the county didn't have that kind of money. Still, the county's lease with the Reds requires it to maintain the seats, and so Feldkamp knew he had to do something.
On a lark, he searched online for some plastic mold companies and found Borke Mold Specialists Inc. in West Chester. He drove to the company headquarters with a cracked plastic seat and asked company president Fritz Borke if there was anything he could do.
Borke, whose company usually makes molds for things like airplane food trays, told Feldkamp he could "reverse-engineer" the molds, essentially making molds from the existing seats instead of the other way around. The county then hired Pinnacle Plastic Products in Bowling Green, Ohio, to pour gobs of hot plastic into the molds.
I love the Reds, and I am a Bengals fan in spite of Mike Brown, but the Hamilton County stadium deal is the absolute worst kind of corporate welfare.  The deal is an albatross tied around the necks of Hamilton County taxpayers, and the beneficiaries are worth hundreds of millions of dollars.  Instead of investing in infrastructure, public safety, public health, education or any number of other legitimate governmental expenditures, the county invested in palaces for professional sports teams.  They aren't the only ones who did this, but they pretty much made the worst deal in the United States.

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