With FC Cincinnati charging strongly out of the gate in the team’s inaugural USL season and already being discussed as a future MLS squad, Nippert Stadium changes are already in the planning stages for the 2017 season.
FC Cincinnati has already set two single-game USL attendance records this season, most recently this past weekend when 23,375 fans were on hand at Nippert Stadium to see a 1-0 victory over the Pittsburgh Riverhounds. With strong crowds — and MLS-level crowds — FC Cincinnati has emerged as a serious MLS expansion contender.
But for that to happen, the momentum has to be maintained past an amazing four-game streak. (We’re not going to get near a discussion of economics; with lots of upscale spaces at Nippert Stadium made possible by recent renovations undertaken by the University of Cincinnati, we’re guessing the potential is there for some MLS-level revenues. Remember, sheer attendance isn’t the only measure of success in pro sports: a 20,000-capacity crowd for a Sporting KC match with high per caps is a lot better proposition than a 25,000-attendance game at Nippert Stadium with low per caps.) And the plan is already underway to make venerable Nippert Stadium even more soccer-friendly. The USL team’s lease with the University of Cincinnati allows more stadium changes for the 2017 season. The team has already invested in locker-room upgrades and a new playing field, and that field will apparently be expanded to a full soccer pitch for 2017, per the Cincinnati Enquirer:
Futbol Club Cincinnati plans to permanently remove a “minimum number of rows and lower level seats” around the University of Cincinnati’s horseshoe-shaped football stadium in order to widen the playing field, according to the club’s contract with UC, obtained this week by The Enquirer….
FC Cincinnati and UC still are working out final details of the renovation. Neither Berding nor the contract disclosed the cost, but the agreement does say the soccer club will pay for the work. The renovation is scheduled to start following UC’s football season and will be finished before or soon after the start of FC Cincinnati’s season next spring, the contract says….
The upcoming renovation calls for expanding the field to 115 yards long and 75 yards wide. Nippert’s soccer field currently is 110 yards long and 70 yards wide. FC Cincinnati had to receive special permission from the United Soccer League to play on Nippert’s “off-center” field, according to the contract.
The concern among Cincinnati sports fans is that the removal of the seats will impact UC’s potential move to the Big 12 Conference. That seems unlikely: these are basically obstructed-view seats that aren’t sold for football games anyway. Having a full pitch is certainly a checklist item for MLS, but more importantly it will allow FC Cincinnati to hold some of those big-buck friendlies that are all the rage.
Image courtesy FC Cincinnati.