A key Greater Cincinnati Redevelopment Authority meeting on a proposed FC Cincinnati stadium was scrapped, leaving questions about the next step in the club’s search.
The Redevelopment Authority was scheduled to meet Wednesday morning and discuss its potential involvement in a proposed FC Cincinnati stadium in Oakley. The club has been looking to lock down its stadium plan and boost its MLS expansion hopes, and is working to finalize a stadium site by March 31.
Oakley is one of the options on the table, and the Redevelopment Authority was to consider its involvement in the financial aspect of a stadium there. However, the authority ultimately canceled the meeting, with its leadership citing concerns that FC Cincinnati has not settled on Oakley as its preferred location. More from The Cincinnati Enquirer:
Authority chairman Charlie Luken, the former Cincinnati mayor, canceled the meeting until the team has picked a single site. “It is clear FC Cincinnati is still looking at three sites,” Luken told Enquirer columnist Jason Williams. “I do not want our authority to be used as leverage.”
FC Cincinnati general manager Jeff Berding issued a statement in response late Tuesday stating the team “respects the decision” of the authority.
Berding said his team has “worked tirelessly to select a site by March 31, 2018 to keep FC Cincinnati in line with critical MLS and stadium development timelines.”
Berding has not said when the team would officially pick Oakley, Newport or West End as its stadium site. The only time Cincinnati City Council is scheduled to meet before March 31 is Wednesday. No votes concerning FC Cincinnati are on the agenda for that meeting.
Late last year, the City of Cincinnati and Hamilton County voted to approve infrastructure contributions for a new stadium in Oakley. In its vote, the city opted to grant the authority permission to own the stadium and enter into a lease agreement with FC Cincinnati. If the authority were to be involved in the ownership of the facility, it could trigger tax-exempt financing and leaseback options that would prevent the stadium developer from incurring expenses such as tax payments.
Oakley and West End are two sites within Cincinnati that the club has considered, with Newport, KY representing a third option. The club’s West End proposal requires a land-swap deal with Cincinnati Public Schools; while negotiations between the two sides have been contentious at points, the West End is reportedly not completely off the table.
Cincinnati was part of a mix of expansion finalists considered by MLS in December that also included Detroit, Nashville, and Sacramento. It was at one point anticipated that MLS would select two of those bids before the end of 2017, but it instead chose Nashville’s bid in December while holding off on other expansion decisions. Sacramento’s backers have been searching for additional investment, while Detroit’s bid calls for sharing the existing Ford Field with the NFL’s Lions rather than building a new soccer-specific stadium.
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