Nine-Month Sprint to Showcase Cincinnati Culminates with Sounders Match

FC Cincinnati’s match against the Seattle Sounders represents culminates a nine-month sprint to make the minor-league team ready for the top flight.

When asked how difficult it has been to get FC Cincinnati MLS-ready in nine months, Jeff Berding didn’t take the opportunity to feel sorry for himself.

“From the beginning, we planned to be in Major League Soccer in our fourth year,” said Berding. “We wanted to be the 24th team. We knew MLS had an odd number with LAFC coming onboard (last season). We wanted to be the team that, in effect, had a spotlight all to ourselves this year.”

Demonstrating they could handle the short runway was the price of admission for FC Cincinnati, according to Berding. “We did a lot of things to earn the confidence of Major League Soccer that we could make this transition and we did it in record-setting time.”

The work started right away. FCC planned and built enough of their new $30 million training facility to use it for preseason practice. They solidified sponsorship deals that now exceed $10 million, including new agreements with First Financial Bank, Advocare, Heineken, and Mike’s Car Wash. Add to that new TV and radio broadcast deals, a logo refresh, a kit launch, and overcoming stadium-construction hurdles at City Hall. To support these efforts, the front office staff of FC Cincinnati has doubled in size since the May MLS announcement.

More importantly, they had to build an MLS-ready squad. “We were the first USL team to sign a Designated Player. That had never been done before,” said Berding, referring to the acquisition of Fanendo Adi last July. Since then, technical director Luke Sassano has added 21 players to the squad, with one more rumored to be on the way.

“It’s been an enormous amount of work for our staff across the board,” said Berding. “But we felt being the 24th team set us up for success both as a club and for our city. Because the eyes of Major League Soccer this year will be on Cincinnati, and it won’t just be about wins and losses. It will be about the pictures coming out of Cincinnati. It will be about MLS teams and fans coming here and seeing our great city.”

FC Cincinnati’s rebuilt squad travels to Seattle for its first regular-season contest this Saturday at 10 pm ET. The match represents the culmination of a nine-month sprint to make the minor-league team ready to compete in the top flight.

“We didn’t want to share that spotlight with three teams, with Nashville, Miami, or Austin. And because this is so much about promoting Cincinnati on a national and international level, we wanted to be the one.”

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati’s inaugural MLS match against the Seattle Sounders.

UPDATE: FCC Officially Breaks Ground on the West End Stadium

The partnership between FC Cincinnati and the West End community took another step forward with Tuesday’s groundbreaking ceremony.

There isn’t much time on the clock for FC Cincinnati to prepare for the upcoming 2019 MLS season. Even the schedule for portions further down the line need to progress. With so many moving pieces already in operation, the FCC ownership group and key members of the West End community welcomed guests and fans to the site of the future FC Cincinnati stadium for a formal breaking of ground.

Fans were invited to attend the event on the grounds of the former Stargel Stadium. While much of the stadium has been demolished and cleared out, the blue “CINCINNATI” endzone remained as a stage between phases. Attendees were provided orange and blue commemorative FCC shovels, as well as a free Skyline Coney.

The ceremony, hosted by former Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory, featured speeches by team figureheads Jeff Berding and Carl Lindner III, as well other key players in this major project:

  • MLS Commissioner Don Garber
  • Major John Cranley
  • Keith Blake, President of the West End Community Council
  • Denise Driehaus, Board VP for the Hamilton County Commission
  • Ericka Copeland-Dansby, VP of the Cincinnati Public Schools Board of Education
  • Laura Brunner, President and CEO of The Port
  • David Spaulding, Turner Construction & Dan Meis, Meis Architecture

The speakers provided some insight on the progress towards the West End Stadium, as well as some things that still need coverage:

  • Garber noted that the opening of the West End Stadium will mark the 23rd soccer-specific stadium in Major League Soccer. “The amount of energy and the amount of work with this ownership group and the public sector led by the Mayor is nothing short of remarkable,” Garber praised.
  • Blake looked back on the history of major-league sporting events in the West End’s Crosley Field and Stargel Stadium, but was also hopeful for the future Community Benefits Agreement signed between team and community. “I believe it is awesome that the world’s most popular sport has a home in the West End,” Blake stressed.
  • Copeland-Dansby provided reminders of the benefits that FCC would provide the school district and community in the form of property taxes, a new $10 million Stargel Stadium, and investments in community funds and local scholarships.
  • Spaulding gave a bit of a general timeline on the stadium’s completion by March 2021. Foundation work will begin in March 2019, followed by structural steel placement in late 2019 that will finish by the first quarter of 2020. The workforce will average around 250 people on site per day, with a maximum of 400 per day at the climax.

While the ceremony was generally commemorative, there is still quite a bit left to accomplish before construction can occur. Sharon Coolidge from the Enquirer points out that land still needs to be purchased and logistics need to be determined for parking and city permits.

However, for the most part, this was still a day that both the FCC faithful and partners were happy to see. Berding emphasized that there’s so much more to do, but also so much more excitement on the way.

“We have a lot ahead of us in Major League Soccer. We’re both excited and anxious to get going. The last few weeks–and especially the last ten days–have been a whirlwind as we begin to craft our inaugural roster that will take the field for us in March, proudly representing Cincinnati. So today’s is really the perfect topper of all this activity.”

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more coverage of how the West End Stadium project develops over the upcoming months.

Lindner III: MLS Brand Reveal “reflects our passion and ambition for world-class soccer”

Image: Joe Craven

FC Cincinnati unveiled its MLS branding at an invitation-only event at the Woodward Theater in Over-the-Rhine on Monday. Selected FC Cincinnati supporters and VIPs huddled into the intimate venue to hear the long-awaited announcement. Interbrand, a global brand consulting firm, developed the new MLS logo and associated branding in partnership with FC Cincinnati ahead of the team’s 2019 MLS debut. Tommy G and Kevin McCloskey emceed the event. Jeff Berding, Carl Lindner III, Alan Coch, and Interbrand designers also addressed an energized crowd.

Discussion: FC Cincinnati Brand Reveal – Do You Like It?

The Woodward Theatre is the same venue that FC Cincinnati used to announce its MLS aspirations in November of 2016 when MLS commissioner Don Garber attended a rally there after touring the city. Just under two years later, FC Cincinnati released its branding in the same location, now as the 24th member of Major League Soccer.

Controversy swirled in the Queen City leading up to the event because the logo was leaked via social media outlets. It also appeared on an official MLS store website (albeit hidden at a URL not directly linked from the main page).

Fast Facts

Below are six fast facts about the team’s new MLS branding.

  • Interbrand’s Cincinnati office, which includes a Cincinnati born-and-bred team, led the FC Cincinnati brand update. Interbrand is famous in soccer circles for the recent rebrand of Italian Serie A’s Juventus. They also designed the branding for the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics.
  • As expected, the team’s name remains FC Cincinnati but changes from Futbol Club Cincinnati to the English spelling of the name, Football Club Cincinnati. The press release also clarified that the German-inspired name Fußball Club Cincinnati is the team’s legal name only. It will not appear “in any sporting references to the team or in public discussion.”
  • Similarly, the Orange & Blue colors have been retained, but are “brighter and bolder.” Also of note is that a darker blue color is used for the word “Cincinnati,” in order to further emphasize the word. The two blues used in the logo have been the subject of a number of aesthetic debates online.
  • There are some clear tie-ins to the city of Cincinnati. The lion still wears a crown to represent the Queen City. The lion’s mane has seven points denoting the seven hills of Cincinnati and the lion’s tail curves into a “C.”
  • The club has introduced two new taglines, “Ignite and Unite” and “Now and Forever.” “The Orange and Blue” is also now officially a tagline and part of the brand rather than just a nickname.
  • The club also released publicly-stated values and a club story which can be found in the full press release.

Quotable

FC Cincinnati Managing Owner Carl Lindner III had the following to say after the event. “We’re thrilled to introduce our MLS brand. FCC has forged a strong connection with our city over the past three years. As we move into the future as an MLS club, our new look maintains that strong connection. It reflects our passion and ambition for world-class soccer in Cincinnati.”

The next major event on FC Cincinnati’s MLS calendar is the Expansion Draft which will take place on December 11th at 3 pm. FC Cincinnati will select five unprotected players from the rosters of existing MLS teams to bolster their current squad. Details are still surprisingly sparse about which players will return for next year’s campaign.

Photos

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Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati’s offseason and MLS preparations.

Image: Joe Craven

STADIUM: MLS wants “truly urban buildings, but they haven’t had that opportunity until now”

FC Cincinnati unveiled the leadership team behind its stadium construction effort and discussed principal architect Dan Meis’ vision to construct a “truly urban building.”

On Friday, Carl Lindner III and Jeff Berding unveiled the principal partners that will construct FC Cincinnati’s soccer specific stadium. At a media event held in Great American Tower, the team’s President & General Manager showcased the stadium team and their plans to materialize “a new design” in Cincinnati’s West End neighborhood.

Stadium Construction Team

Architecture
MEIS Architects, Dan Meis
Elevar Design Group, Tom Fernandez
Construction
Turner Construction, David Spaulding
Jostin Construction, Albert Smitherman
Finance
U.S. Bank, Bill Mulvihill
Project Planning
Machete Group, David Carlock

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Stadium team (L to R): Fernandez, Carlock, Smitherman, Berding, Lindner III, Meis, Spaulding, Mulvihill (behind Communications VP Summers)

Stadium Construction Fast Facts

  • MEIS has been involved since the start of the MLS bid. They’ve designed several MLS stadia and are currently working on new venues for AS Roma and Everton FC.
  • Elevar Design Group is also an architecture firm that will be MEIS’ local partner on the project. They will be the “boots on the ground” and MEIS’s “eyes and ears when necessary” for the effort.
  • Turner Construction plans for a groundbreaking on the $200M+ stadium by the end of this year. They will have the foundations of the stadium in place by Q2 2019, and plan to celebrate the “topping out” of the stadium at the end of 2019. The stadium will be ready for use for the 2021 MLS season.
  • Jostin is a local MBE (Minority Business Enterprise) and SBE (Small Business Enterprise) certified construction firm. They have partnered with Turner on several projects in the past including the Great American Tower, where the meeting was held.
  • FC Cincinnati’s goal is to build a stadium with a seating capacity larger than the established 21,000 plan. However, they are currently reviewing cost factors before making a final determination.

“Truly Urban” Building

The most interesting aspect of the press conference was the discussion of fitting the new stadium into the West End neighborhood. Due to the site location, the design of the stadium has to change from the original renderings featured in the MLS bid process.

“Now that you have a site, you have to embed the design into the site. That will be the challenge for Dan (Meis) and Tom (Fernandez) and their teams.” said Jeff Berding. Meis said that his team is “starting over” in terms of the design, but is also “drawing on a lot of the same principles” used to develop the initial renderings. An updated design is expected to be released within “several weeks”. The end result will be something that Meis claims that MLS has been looking to achieve for some time now — a “truly urban building.”

“This is a really unique site…It’s an opportunity to really knit a design into a neighborhood. . .We have a truly urban site with a great neighborhood history. MLS has often talked about trying to create truly urban buildings and drawing on the international aspect of the architecture . . .but they really haven’t had an opportunity quite like this. This is a site and a neighborhood and a fanbase that will bring a truly international flavor to MLS and create an entirely new kind of building.”

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati’s 2018 season.

We’re in! #MLS2CINCY, It Had to Be; Garber: “Your fans have shocked the world”

FC Cincinnati was announced as the 26th MLS expansion team by commissioner Don Garber on Tuesday, May 29th at Rhinegeist Brewery.

Image: Joe Craven

Don Garber visited Cincinnati on Tuesday with a “special announcement” about the future of soccer in Cincinnati. FC Cincinnati supporters, players, coaches, media, and of course the front office and owners packed into Rhinegeist Brewery for the half hour presentation.

FC Cincinnati live-streamed the event on the big screen at Fountain Square. The majority of fans attended there and celebrated at the party hosted by 3CDC that featured food, drink, a DJ, and lots of FCC gear.

Fast Facts

  • FC Cincinnati was announced as the 26th MLS expansion team by Commissioner Don Garber.
  • They will start play in MLS in 2019 at Nippert Stadium.
  • The club’s proposed 21,000 seat stadium to be built in the city’s West End neighborhood is scheduled to be completed in 2021.
  • As previously announced, Mercy Health will be the team’s jersey sponsor, starting with the 2019 MLS season.
  • FC Cincinnati’s MLS conference has not yet been determined, but will be finalized in the coming months. The assumption is that it will be the Eastern Conference, but the decision is dependent on several factors.
  • Season ticket members have priority in seat selection for the inaugural 2019 MLS season. Fans without priority can earn a higher priority in 2019 by purchasing pro-rated 2018 season tickets from now until June 30th. On Monday July 2nd, FCC will begin taking $50 deposits for 2019 season tickets.
  • Average MLS attendance for 2017 was an all-time high at 22,106 per game. FCC’s current attendance for the 2018 season stands just under 24,500 fans per game.

Commissioner Garber confirmed in the post-event press conference that the long delay in a decision was related to the ability to secure the West End Stadium site.

Tonight’s event is the culmination of 18 months of negotiations between FC Cincinnati and MLS. Those are the basics. Stay tuned to Orange & Blue press for images and more color from Tuesday’s #MLS2CINCY celebration.

Reaction to Upcoming MLS Expansion Announcement

An announcement next Tuesday looks likely to be an invitation for FC Cincinnati to join Major League Soccer. O&B Press’ editor penned a few words in reaction to what the news means to him and soccer fans in the city.

Image: JES Photography
On Thursday, FC Cincinnati fans finally. . .and I mean finally, got news of Don Garber’s intention to visit the Queen City for an announcement regarding the team’s bid for MLS expansion. It’s been a long road and we, at Orange & Blue Press, have written our fair share about expansion over the past two years. I’ve personally been vocal about blocking out the drama surrounding the circus, in favor of focusing on the actual soccer being played. I penned a few words summarizing my reaction to the news, assuming Tuesday’s announcement is the expected invitation to join Major League Soccer.

Yesterday’s long-awaited news leaves me with a feeling of joy, elation, relief, and optimism quickly followed by a stirring panic…holy sh*t, there’s a LOT to do between now and January of 2019 when a potential MLS preseason camp would start.

And I don’t actually have to do anything besides observe, enjoy it all, and write a few words on this blog. Nevertheless, the club has a huge task ahead and a lot of pieces to put in place in nine months to be MLS ready.

But right now is not the time for those worries. It’s time to take a step back, truly pause and savor the moment because it’s historic and important for this city. It’s time to appreciate the fact that we are able to be around the club, observing and supporting, during this formative time.

Deserved Accolades

A massive thank you and congratulations are in order for Jeff Berding, the ownership group, and the tireless staff at FC Cincinnati. Mr. Berding is still villainized by some for his involvement in the Paul Brown Stadium deal however many years ago. But man, am I glad he was in charge of this one. A unique skill set was needed and he brought that to accomplish so much with this franchise in just under three years.

He and his staff leveraged his sales executive experience from the Bengals and combined it with the political skills he garnered on city council. He mixed these two like peanut butter and chocolate for a delicious recipe that resulted in bringing this team to the highest level of American soccer. Let’s not forget that it takes money and influence too, lots and lots of it. Thank you Carl Lindner III and the entire ownership group for that.

Also, congratulations and thank you to all those involved in the Build It Here effort and anyone who got involved. You battled against some long odds to help make a stadium location in the urban core a reality.

The Importance of an MLS Franchise

The reason why this opportunity is important, and the thing I am most thankful for, is that this news should ensure the sustainability of professional soccer in the Queen City for some time to come. We’ve had our fair share of false starts with pro soccer here in the Queen City. And this news certainly doesn’t guarantee top level soccer here forever. Only enduring support, committed local owners, ambitious but responsible club management, and the financial growth and success of soccer in our country can do that.

The USL has been a great partner since 2015 and its growth is impressive. I hope that growth continues and that a strong and healthy pyramid develops in the lower leagues, maybe even one that can support promotion and relegation. But right now, the lower leagues are still volatile, and the long-term profits that FCC’s investors are understandably seeking will likely exist only in the top flight. Right now, there aren’t guaranteed profits even at that level. This is a long-term high stakes play for the team’s investors. Playing in the top league in our country helps ensure that continued investment.

If you would, also take a moment during this time to think about our soccer-loving brethren in Columbus, who are still fighting for their team. I very much hope that this news does not come at the expense of our rival to the north, who started their journey over 20 years ago.

Finally, I can’t wait to enjoy this with our soccer-loving city…the next week is gonna be great. A very sincere and humble thank you to everyone who has followed along with Orange & Blue Press during the past two plus years. We appreciate every reader and hope to bring you continued high-quality soccer and statistics-rich coverage of the team in 2019 and beyond.

FC Cincinnati – City Council’s Warm-up

Graphic: CSDIV

Cincinnati City Council called a press conference on short notice on Friday April 6th to make an announcement about FC Cincinnati’s West End stadium pursuit. The press conference was held at the Lighthouse Worship Center on Central Avenue. Politicians, community leaders, building and trade officials, West End residents, and even the “Little Senators” were in attendance.

Council members P.G. Sittenfeld and David Mann used this morning’s press conference to outline a proposed stadium and community plan they crafted. They believe the plan has the necessary number of city council votes to pass, and that FC Cincinnati has agreed to it in principle.

P.G. shared, “We are here to share some big news and what I believe is a big break through.” He continued, “We don’t pass on opportunity, we seize opportunity. Let’s make our vibrancy brighter, let’s make our narrative stronger”. According to Sittenfeld, “After much listening and doing my homework…the question is how can we do the most good for the most people? We are forced to make choices, sometimes binary and often difficult.”

Proposed Stadium Deal Points

  • $25M+ of new money to Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS)
  • FC Cincinnati to pay full fair share of property taxes
  • $32M of new money will be spent with minority businesses, including $22M being spent with women-owned businesses
  • $15M in new, quality affordable housing by a private developer in partnership with the city (no homes will be demolished and no one displaced by the construction)
  • $100,000 annual commitment from FC Cincinnati for West End organizations and kids activities
  • $10M new Stargel  Stadium
  • Community Benefits Agreement to be negotiated that covers light, noise, litter, traffic, and safety

Sittenfeld concluded his prepared remarks with the question, “What will happen if we don’t seize on this opportunity and allow the project to go over the river?” After listing the benefits of this plan he ended with, “We are a can-do city.”

Former Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory, from a 4th generation West End family, added “this will be the largest single investment in the West End in the history of the community.”

This morning’s news does not guarantee that the stadium plan is a done deal, or that MLS will finally announce FC Cincinnati’s bid. However, it certainly does set the stage for the necessary votes by the Cincinnati Public School (CPS) board, the West End Community Council, and Cincinnati’s City Council.

After today’s warm up with some positive news on the stadium front, FC Cincinnati supporters will look to continue the momentum tomorrow in the FC Cincinnati vs. Louisville City FC match.

FC Cincinnati Stadium Construction and Economic Inclusion

Economic Inclusion – What is it and how does it play into FC Cincinnati’s plans to do things the right way when it comes to stadium construction.

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Side view of a potential FC Cincinnati soccer specific stadium presented by Meis in June 2017

When Cincinnati’s Horseshoe (now Jack) Casino was built on Broadway Commons, owner Dan Gilbert committed to an economic inclusion plan for its construction that was widely considered a successful effort to achieve inclusion goals on a private construction project.

What is an economic inclusion goal, you might ask? It isn’t our forte at Orange and Blue Press either, but we dug a little deeper into what this means and what to expect if (fingers crossed) construction begins on a stadium.

In essence, an economic inclusion goal as it relates to construction ensures opportunity and inclusion in the development effort, especially by women and minority-owned businesses. Specific minimum goals are set to ensure these groups have a suitable stake.

The city of Cincinnati, in fact, has a Department of Economic Inclusion that certifies minority and women-owned businesses and sets inclusion goals for development efforts funded by the city.

In a recent interview on Eric Kearney’s Rise to Shine radio program, Jeff Berding discussed FC Cincinnati’s potential stadium construction and the economic inclusion that would be part of the plan.

“We will have inclusion. … We want to meet the goals consistent with or better than the casino. We have outlined an inclusion plan consistent with that.” 

The casino, whose construction completed about 5 years ago, targeted a 20 percent inclusion goal for MBE/WBE participation. MBE stands for “Minority Business Enterprise”, and WBE stands for “Women Business Enterprise”. A firm is considered an MBE, for example, if it is 51% owned and controlled by a minority group, and a WBE if 51% owned and controlled by women.

The general contractor for the casino’s construction was Messer. They received a fee for managing the overall project and issued subcontracts for a portion of the work, rather than self-performing all of the construction. An inclusion percentage was measured by determining how many dollars of all subcontracts issued went to minority-owned or women-owned firms or suppliers.

An inclusion percentage can also be measured based on the fee paid to the general contractor. In the case of the casino, Messer partnered with three minority-owned firms: TriVersity, D.A.G., and Jostin, who received part of the management fee and were responsible for driving equitable inclusion rates with the subcontractors.

The overall project achieved a 37 percent construction contract inclusion rate, well exceeding the goals set.

FC Cincinnati wants to emulate and possibly even improve on the casino’s successful plan in their efforts to build a soccer-specific stadium in the Queen City. Although the media is focused on the stadium location efforts in the West End, all three sites are still in play. This inclusion policy will apply regardless of which location is selected.

“The inclusion plan will be consistently administered regardless of the site. … We need this inclusion program to lift people up. … We need to extend opportunity consistently in this community.”

Conclusion

Building a new stadium in Cincinnati is a complex and multi-faceted proposition. The baggage of past stadium deals makes this task even harder. While some FC Cincinnati fans are frustrated with the seemingly slow progress, the club seems committed to putting the stadium where it will work for the business AND do the most good for the community. Yes, FC Cincinnati is a business and hopes to make profits in the long-term based on the growth of soccer in the US. However, in the near term, they are looking to make a substantial investment in one of our communities, backed by the most philanthropic family in the city’s history, and supported by a Community Benefits Agreement authored by our city’s leaders.

FC Cincinnati should not necessarily be applauded simply for making economic inclusion a goal. That is really an expectation today for large construction initiatives, even if most of the funding is private. However, they are making inclusion a business priority and setting goals similar to those of the casino makes their intentions clear. We wanted to shed a little light on economic inclusion goals and underline this as an example of the club trying to do things the right way.

Special thanks to Byron Stallworth, National Roofing Partners for doing his best to educate me on economic inclusion in the construction industry. MGW_5547-3

West End Stadium Location Takes Center Stage

The timeline and events leading up to yesterday’s FC Cincinnati West End stadium proposal, as the club reaches out to engage CPS and the local community.

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Twelve days have passed in what has already been a busy February in FC Cincinnati’s pursuit of a potential stadium location. While there’s no news yet in terms of securing an MLS spot, there is a LOT happening in the city’s West End neighborhood, which is the current focus of FC Cincinnati’s stadium negotiation efforts.

On Monday night Jeff Berding presented his vision of what a West End stadium might look like to Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) Board of Education. The details of the proposal are complex, and there’s still a lot to be negotiated, but the proposal can be summarized as follows:

FC Cincinnati is proposing a land/site swap involving the current CPS-owned Stargel Stadium, in order to build a soccer stadium in that location (and nearby plots). FCC would build a new improved Stargel Stadium in return on a different site adjacent to Taft High school. The construction of the new Stargel would be done prior to any impact on the existing Stargel stadium, ensuring no interruption in school or neighborhood activities.

In addition, FCC promised to keep Cincinnati Public Schools “whole or improved on every level” (taxes), continue community engagement to address neighborhood concerns, and enter into a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) established by the City of Cincinnati to protect the interests of residents in the neighborhood.

Monday’s meeting is the culmination of a series of recent events in the West End. Things kicked off at the end of January when FC Cincinnati sent a letter Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) asking them to engage with the club and discuss a partnership in pursuing a stadium located in the West End. A week later, FC Cincinnati secured the option to buy 60 empty lots in the neighborhood, that were acquired from the Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA) for residential development.

Here’s a timeline of the events that followed, with corresponing links if you want more details:

  • Jan. 31 – CPS met and discussed FC Cincinnati’s letter. They request more clarity on what is being asked of CPS in an “open and public” forum.
  • Jan. 31 – Cincinnati NAACP publishes a statement indicating that they are “monitoring the developments with serious interest.” Their statement demands transparency and community engagement.
  • Feb. 2 – A letter from CPS President Carolyn Jones requests more information and transparency from FC Cincinnati on their stadium plans.
  • Feb. 2 – Jeff Berding and Mark Mallory speak on 700 WLW, reiterating that all three sites are still in play, that Taft High School “won’t be touched”, and that Mallory’s involvement is needed “to get the correct information out” in the West End community.
  • Feb. 5 – Jeff Berding attends Cincinnati City Council Budget and Finance committee meeting. Councilman Mann recommends a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) for the new stadium. Berding states that he is targeting to know MLS’ decision by end of February and have a firm stadium plan by March if they are awarded entry.
  • Feb. 6 – The Enquirer publishes an editorial by Jeff Berding stressing that a stadium in any neighborhood must a net positive for the neighborhood and the club with make decisions with the community and city leaders where it is located.
  • Feb. 7 – Hamilton County Commissioners update the expiration date of their December resolution to pay for a $15M parking garage in support of a stadium, extending the expiration date to February 28 (it originally expired at the end of 2017).
  • Feb. 8 – West End Community Meeting is held and media reports indicate a negative neighborhood reaction to the proposed stadium. Cincinnati City Councilman Wendell Young makes statements opposing any impact on Stargell stadium and has concerns about gentrification.
  • Feb. 10Jeff Berding goes door-to-door in West End neighborhood to seek input and hear concerns of West End residents on a potential FC Cincinnati stadium.
  • Feb. 12 – A CPS Board of Education meeting is held, where Jeff Berding presents details on plans for a West End Stadium site and residents that live in CPS districts have an opportunity to speak for and against the stadium proposal.

Summary

While we don’t often wade into the waters of the politics surrounding the stadium situation (this is a soccer blog after all), we will make a few observations about recent events in the West End.

The Beginning

Monday’s proposal might feel like the conclusion of several events pointing to a West End stadium location. However, this is likely just the beginning of an arduous negotiation process. The club must see great value in the West End location because the path it needs to travel to get a deal done there will be a difficult one. Each location presents its own unique obstacles, but one could argue that the West End might be the most politically charged and financially difficult of the three.

Dynamic Situation Across Three Sites

Berding reiterated on Monday that all three stadium locations (Oakley, Newport, and the West End) are still very much in play. The Oakley traffic and environmental studies promised in December are now underway. The Newport site has made the fewest headlines, but don’t be surprised it if rises to the surface again if negotiations take a bad turn elsewhere. This is a dynamic situation, and the club has to keep all its options open as it pursues a viable situation on multiple fronts.

FCC to Go Big on Outreach and Transparency

The three points Jeff Berding made in his editorial are going to need to become the hallmarks of the club as they move forward: communication, outreach, and partnership. FCC is going to have to overcommunicate and go above and beyond with both community engagement and probably financial generosity to get a deal done, particularly in the West End. The club has taken some hits in the media for not being transparent enough. Whether you agree with that or not, expect them to now engage fully and make a big push in these respective communities to turn a plan into reality.

Update: Feb. 13  – On Tuesday, Jeff Berding presented a customized version of the West End stadium proposal to the West End Community Council. This version of the plan, which was presented with the assistance Mark Mallory, was customized and focused on the potential benefits and impact to the neighborhood. Thereafter he fielded questions and concerns from the council. No public comment was a part of the meeting.

Stay tuned to Orange and Blue Press, where we’ll get back to talking about soccer-ball-kicking soon enough. Wednesday’s friendly with the Chicago Fire reserves was canceled, so the next time we’ll see the Orange and Blue in action is Thursday, February 22nd at Indy XI.

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