Friday, April 16, 2004

Club-seat buyers sue

2nd contract locked them in

By Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Several Bengals fans are trading their pricey club seats in Paul Brown Stadium for seats in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court.

Four area residents filed a class-action lawsuit Thursday over the football team's demand that those who bought club-seat licenses before the stadium opened in 2000 continue to buy season tickets for those seats until their contract is up.

"The point of the lawsuit is, nobody agreed to that contract," said attorney Janet Abaray, who is representing the former license holders.

Bengals spokesman Jack Brennan said he had not seen the lawsuit and could not comment.

Fans paid a $150 license fee for the right to buy club seats for six, eight or 10 years. Club seats, which are roomier than regular ones and include access to lounges, will cost $870 to $2,150 per seat for season tickets this year.

The form the fans signed to buy their club-seat licenses said they would forfeit their rights to the seats if they stopped buying season tickets.

No money, no seats, no problem.

However, the team sent a lengthier contract later - never signed by the license holders - that said they could not stop paying. The Bengals tried to enforce that provision this spring by sending letters to delinquent license holders threatening to "strongly look at all available options" to collect from them.

Abaray said the case is similar to one in which buyers of regular seat licenses sued after the seats they received differed from those they picked from Bengals brochures. The team settled that case in 2001 by paying 1,750 season ticket holders an average of $1,100 apiece.

"They already know they can't do this and yet they sent these threatening letters," Abaray said. "They're trying to intimidate people into paying."


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