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.

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.

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.

MGW_5543

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.

MGW_5543