FC Cincinnati Breaks Ground on Soccer Stadium
20 December 2018
FC Cincinnati broke ground Tuesday on its $200 million soccer stadium in Cincinnati's historic West End neighborhood.
FCC will enter MLS play for its first season in March but will continue playing at Nippert Stadium until the new stadium is finished in 2021.
The club will finance the stadium deal but is looking for financial assistance from the city and Hamilton County. Most notably, county commissioners passed three resolutions to build a parking garage near the stadium. The city has promised approximately $33 million in infrastructure support including the land the stadium will occupy. But there is even tension on if the land will be given to the club or if there will need to be some type of monetary transaction.
But county officials have cooled to the parking garage plans despite the resolutions. FC Cincinnati President and General Manager Jeff Berding said Wednesday on WLW radio there is no paper agreement to build the parking garage. But he remains optimist parking needs will be meet by the appropriate parties.
At Tuesday's groundbreaking ceremony, several elected and team officials spoke to a crowd of several hundred about moving forward.
“I feel like they must have felt when they broke ground on Crosley Field roughly 100 years ago here in the West End,” said Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley. Crosley Field was home to the Cincinnati Reds between 1912 and 1970.
“And knowing that the future was bound up in growth and investment and investing in those things that bring us together like sports.”
FCC signed a Community Benefits Agreement that will provide $100,000 each year to the West End neighborhood for a variety of programs, including scholarships for students who attend schools in the neighborhood.
“There's a hundred-thousand a year that's going to come for community projects, not just sports,” said Keith Blake, West End Community Council President. “And that's going to help the community.”
MLS Commissioner Don Garber recalled visiting an FC Cincinnati game recently when they were members of the USL. Garber said the stadium energy and fans made it clear FCC could be a part of Major League Soccer.
Garber also said the stadium process is one of the quickest he has seen, but also cautioned that building any type of stadium anywhere is difficult. Still, he believes FCC is on the right path to not only build a stadium but provide something special for the region.
“The energy and ambition that this team has and their architects have to make this very very special architecturally from a design perspective,” said Garber. “But also its ambitious in terms of the size of the stadium.”
Plans are still being finalized and the stadium could have a capacity anywhere between 21,000 and 27,000. When finished, it will be one of the largest soccer-specific stadiums in MLS.
The stadium costs is expected to be between $200 and $250 million.
Cincinnati's planning commission has yet to approve the project but earth moving will continue at the new stadium which will sit on the former site that housed Stargel Stadium. The stadium hosted athletic events for Taft IT High School. FCC will spend $10 million to build a new athletic complex for the school.
Construction crews plan to start pouring the stadium's foundation in March, but if permits are secured by then construction will come to halt. That could jeopardize the stadium's opening for the 2021 MLS season.
Still, FCC officials and the elected leaders who spoke at the ceremony largely stayed positive. The common theme was not just building a stadium for soccer, but providing opportunity for the community.
“Since our founding a key tenant of our club has been to be visible in the community,” FCC President and General Manager Jeff Berding said to the crowd. “To give back to make our city and our people better. We strive to make a tangible difference in greater Cincinnati. To improve the position of those around us. If not their lives, then at least their days. To bring happy moments and civic pride.
Fans who attended the groundbreaking ceremony were given small orange shovels to also turn dirt.
The West End neighborhood is no stranger to professional sports franchises. When the Reds called Crosley Field home, the West End played host to a number of World Series games. The original Cincinnati Bengals played in the West End as members of the second and third AFL. The neighborhood was also home to boxing legend and former World Heavyweight Champion Ezzard Charles.
As FC Cincinnati ties up loose ends with city and county leaders, the new stadium will be a pillar not just for the West End but all of southwest Ohio. No one to this point thinks the stadium won't be built. And it's presence is expected to spur other development and investment in the region.
FC Cincinnati will mark Cincinnati's third professional major league team, joining the Reds and Bengals. Cincinnati is also home for professional hockey – the Cyclones of the ECHL.
FC Cincinnati's $200 million stadium deal joins two others along the I-71 corridor. Separated by approximately 200 miles – Louisville City FC, members of the USL, is building a $65 million stadium expected to be completed in 2020 and Columbus Crew SC, members of MLS, is moving forward with a $230 million downtown stadium.
Soccer is already the world's largest sport and it's the fastest growing sport in the United States. MLS started with ten teams in 1996 and will boast 28 teams by 2022.