The FC Cincinnati stadium proposal took a major step forward on Wednesday, when the City of Cincinnati and Hamilton County committed funds for the project.
In its latest pitch for a new stadium to accommodate MLS expansion, FC Cincinnati is proposing the construction of a privately-financed $200 million soccer-specific venue on the site of the former Cast-Fab plant in Oakley. The plan at one point called for $70-$75 million in public funds for infrastructure upgrades, but the club has now received a combined $51 million from the city and county.
Separate votes were taken on Wednesday. The Cincinnati City Council approved a proposal to use a variety of funding sources to cover a $36 million contribution, and Hamilton County Commissioners signed off on a $15 million parking garage to support the stadium. The county commissioners were unanimous in their approval, while the council moved the city’s plan forward by a 5-3 margin. More from The Cincinnati Enquirer:
“It is time for the community to come together arm and arm to demonstrate to Major League Soccer we want an MLS franchise awarded to Cincinnati,” Hamilton County Board of Commissioners President Todd Portune said Wednesday.
Mayor John Cranley has said all along “this is a big deal” and worked behind the scenes to find the money and lobby for the votes, even if wasn’t everything the team asked for. Paying for infrastructure, he said, would bring more business and more jobs.
FC Cincinnati General Manager Jeff Berding, an orange FC scarf around his neck, said Wednesday afternoon the votes give the team what it needs to submit a winning bid.
“This is a major-league sports town,” Berding said. “This gives us a chance to get a Major League Soccer franchise.”
While this is a major boost for the bid, there are still some questions to be resolved. FC Cincinnati has control of its preferred Oakley site, and is planning to pitch it to MLS, but Cincinnati’s West End could become an alternative if Oakley does not come to fruition. Oakley and West End are two of the three sites that have been connected to the club in its stadium search, with the other being Newport, KY.
It also remains to be seen where Cincinnati will stand against its competition. On Wednesday morning, MLS announced four expansion finalists, naming Cincinnati as part of a mix that also features Detroit, Nashville, and Sacramento. Detroit recently shifted its focus from building a new downtown stadium to renovating the existing Ford Field to meet MLS standards. Nashville and Sacramento, meanwhile, have made strides in their respective efforts to construct new soccer-specific stadiums.
Representatives from all four bids will make formal presentations to MLS commissioner Don Garber and the league’s expansion committee on December 6 in New York. MLS is expected to select two of those options later in December. The winning bids from this round will pay a $150 million expansion fee.
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