Baltimore's hopes for luring the NFL's Bengals officially were dashed late last night when the Cincinnati City Council, after several tense hours of debate, approved a financing plan to build new stadiums for the Bengals and baseball's Reds.
The 5-4 vote came well after an afternoon deadline the team had set for completing talks with Cincinnati, but Bengals owner Mike Brown said he intends to stay in town.
"The Bengals belong in Cincinnati and I've never felt any other way, and this decision sets out a plan by which we can remain a Cincinnati team," Brown said in a written statement.
Hamilton County leaders announced eight days ago that they would raise the sales tax from 5 1/2 to 6 1/2 percent, but demanded concessions from the city in exchange. The council balked at provisions that would have diverted revenue from its treasury.
On Saturday, Brown said he would have to have an agreement by Thursday or he would commence exclusive negotiations with the Maryland Stadium Authority.
On Wednesday, city and county leaders struck a tentative agreement, subject to a vote of the council. The vote was scheduled but deferred several times, beginning with Wednesday afternoon. Yesterday, the council convened at 3 p.m. and debated the matter at length, without reaching agreement.
It adjourned at about 4:30 p.m., and reconvened at 9. The final vote came shortly before midnight.
Bengals spokesman Jack Brennan said Brown "still feels that Baltimore has a very strong and worthy bid for an NFL team and Baltimore will get a team."
Maryland Stadium Authority chairman John Moag vowed to continue attempts to bring a team here, although he said time is short.
Moag has said that Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening may seek alternative uses for the money set aside for a stadium if a team has not shown interest by sometime this fall, when the governor puts together a budget plan.