A Big Step For FC Cincinnati In West End

Posted at 8:10 PM, Apr 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-07 20:10:02-04

CINCINNATI (WLWT) – The biggest step yet toward a West End soccer stadium has been taken.

A funding deal has been proposed, one that appears destined to garner solid school support and just enough City Council backing.

Most remaining roadblocks to turning Stargel Stadium and the West End land around it into a new FC Cincinnati soccer site were kicked aside when Councilman PG Sittenfeld announced to applause "FC Cincinnati will be paying CPS its full, fair share of taxes."

That was the breakthrough.

CEO and General Manager Jeff Berding gave written assurance to the schools they wouldn’t lose even a dime in property tax dollars.

"FC Cincinnati proposes to make a lump sum payment to CPS," said School Board President Carolyn Jones in a prepared statement.

Here’s the breakdown:

FCC will provide $25 million to the schools in lieu of property taxes.

In excess of $54 million will be provided for minority and female-owned businesses.

There will be $16 million as a result of prevailing wages for construction of a 21,000-seat stadium, which is projected to create 1,870 jobs for the build.

A private developer would invest $15 million in what’s termed quality, affordable housing.

FCC will deliver $100,000 annually to various West End teams and organizations.

It will spend $10 million to build a relocated Stargel Stadium.

A $200 million investment will be made to construct a new soccer stadium where Stargel is now.

The city’s contribution to support the West End stadium will actually decrease because Oakley is out. It would have cost more there.

Jeff Pastor, who was elected to council five months ago and grew up in the West End, likes what he hears about the plan which he and others have helped shape the past few weeks.

"The plan is sound," said Pastor. "We’re not displacing citizens. I mean, we’re talking about inclusion, we’re talking about previously incarcerated individuals."

Just a couple weeks back, Berding publicly moved away from the West End possibility by saying the economics of it wouldn’t work.

But, with Major League Soccer viewing Oakley as lacking a true urban core environment and with the arrangement and control of the Newport elements posing an untimely challenge, the West End re-surfaced as the most desirable location.

Pastor looks at the heart of his old neighborhood, the decades-long struggles to reinvigorate it and says "And now we have this opportunity for an historically African-American neighborhood to get the investment that we’ve been so desperately needing."

As soon as next week, Council could have a draft development agreement in front of it. Five votes would be needed to approve it.

Those are expected to be Sittenfeld, Pastor and Council members David Mann, Amy Murray and Chris Smitherman.

Berding released the following statement Friday evening:

"FCC appreciates all of our leaders at City Hall who are working to bring Major League Soccer to the Queen City. We thank Councilman PG Sittenfeld and Councilman David Mann for their leadership with this proposal today. We also recognize any final deal will only be possible due to the ongoing support and continued leadership from Mayor John Cranley, Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman, Councilwoman Amy Murray and Councilman Jeff Pastor. 

"I am as hopeful as ever that city leaders will get this done and look forward to working with these leaders and others in the days ahead on this significant economic development opportunity."

The School Board could also take up its final portion of approving the deal Tuesday, but has committed to taking action ahead of April 17 when MLS owners meet.

There has been no scheduled announcement about FC Cincinnati expansion yet, but many who support today’s proposal see it as setting the stage for MLS to act.