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FC Cincinnati Soccer Stadium Wins City, County Support

An artist rendering of a proposed soccer stadium.
FC Cincinnati
An artist rendering of a proposed soccer stadium.

FC Cincinnati now has Cincinnati's commitment to pay for $37 million of infrastructure needed for a soccer stadium as it pursues a Major League Soccer expansion team.  City Council approved the needed ordinance Wednesday by a 5-3 vote.

Mayor John Cranley put together the package. He calls it an exciting opportunity for the city.

"We just found out that we're one of four teams in the country that has a shot of getting one of these two expansion teams," Cranley says. "That's awesome. And if we don't have a plan, we don't have a chance. And that is the decision."

The city's funding plan breaks down as follows:

  • $ 7,250,000 from Tax Increment Financing (TIF).
  • $ 7,383,000 from the sale of the Blue Ash Airport.
  • $ 2,500,000 from the city's capital budget in fiscal year 2019.
  • $20,000,000 from the city's portion of the residual from the local hotel/motel tax.

The city's funds will only be used for things like wider streets and additional sidewalks. No city money would be spent on an actual stadium.

Council Member P.G. Sittenfeld opposes the finance package. He says he likes the grassroots support for soccer and FC Cincinnati.

"I also think that showing little interest in public and community engagement, sidestepping important questions, and completely draining one of the city's reserve accounts represents a surprisingly un-vigilant way of governing," Sittenfeld says.

Chris Seelbach and Yvette Simpson also voted against the plan. David Mann, Charlie Winburn, Amy Murray, Christopher Smitherman and Kevin Flynn all voted for it.

Meanwhile, Hamilton County's part of a new soccer stadium plan was also approved Wednesday.

County Commissioners gave the go ahead to fund construction of a 1,000 space parking garage. The garage would be near a soccer-specific stadium sought by FC Cincinnati as the team makes a bid to win a Major League Soccer expansion franchise.

The county will use parking revenues from the Banks to pay for the $15 million garage. It will not pay for construction of the stadium.

Commissioner Denise Driehaus says Hamilton County learned from past stadium deals. She says it was the county's duty to push the idea of using Paul Brown Stadium as a soccer facility.

"I know there was some frustration about the delay caused through that, but honest to God that's our duty to the taxpayers," she says.

Driehaus calls the county's involvement an economic partnership with the team, the city, and the community.

She says the funds used for the garage are restricted, coming from parking revenue to build or maintain parking.

"In the end, we will have a parking garage as we have seen at the Banks, where we hope to generate some revenue to continue to maintain those parking garages we have throughout the county," she says.

Commissioner Chris Monzel says he had several conditions in order for the project to earn his support. The lone Republican on the board says one was "that the county will not build; the county will not fund; the county will not operate; the county will not maintain; the county will not own another sports stadium. As well as not use any tax money in regards to this."

Commissioners are sensitive about stadium ownership after voters approved a 1996 sales tax to fund the construction of Paul Brown Stadium and Great American Ballpark. Revenues did not come in as expected and the sales tax continues today.

MLS will name two expansion teams in December. Besides Cincinnati, others in the running include Detroit, Nashville and Sacramento.

The county, the city of Cincinnati and the Convention Facilities Authority still have to work out an agreement to let the city use its share of lodging tax revenues to help pay for other infrastructure improvements around a stadium site.

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Jay Hanselman brings more than 10 years experience as a news anchor and reporter to 91.7 WVXU. He came to WVXU from WNKU, where he hosted the local broadcast of All Things Considered. Hanselman has been recognized for his reporting by the Kentucky AP Broadcasters Association, the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and the Ohio AP Broadcasters.
Rinehart has been a radio reporter since 1994 with positions in markets like Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska; Sioux City, Iowa; Dayton, Ohio: and most recently as senior correspondent and anchor for Cincinnati’s WLW-AM.