FC Cincinnati gains support for stadium in West End

FC Cincinnati’s months-long battle to nail down a stadium site for its Major League Soccer expansion bid appears to be coming to a resolution.

Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld announced Friday he will back FC Cincinnati’s efforts to build a $200 million stadium in the West End neighborhood at the current site of Willard R. Stargel Stadium, which sits on the campus of Taft High School and is used by all Cincinnati Public Schools.

Sittenfeld strongly opposed original proposals for a West End deal but re-negotiated some of the terms with FCC, along with Councilman David Mann, to come up with a new deal to bring to a full council vote. It appears the project will get the necessary five of nine votes with Sittenfeld now on board.

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FCC originally got the necessary approvals to put its stadium in Oakley and also was negotiating with Corporex to build at the former Ovation site in Newport, Ky.

“Based on what I do know and conversations I’ve had, I think this is likely to be well-received by the majority of the bodies that need to weigh in on the matter,” Sittenfeld said. “We are putting forward what we’ve worked very hard to craft as a good, hopefully really good, plan.”

As part of the deal, FCC will pay its full “fair share” of property taxes, according to Sittendeld, and $25 million-plus in new money will be going to Cincinnati Public Schools for the life of the agreement. Originally, FCC was seeking to pay less in property taxes.

“This was a non-negotiable and a game-changer for me,” Sittenfeld said.

FCC has agreed to build a bigger $10 million stadium on property across the street from Taft.

Additionally, $32 million in new money will be spent with minority businesses and $22 million in new money will be spent with women-owned businesses, $16 million-plus will be added to workers’ wages by keeping the project in Ohio and $15 million in new quality affordable housing will be brought online, led by a private developer “in partnership with the city and where the community will be empowered around things like scale, design and aesthetics,” according to Sittenfeld.

FCC also will put $100,000 annually into various organizations such as The Little Senators Youth Sports and the creation of the West End Athletics Association.

Sittenfeld said the project would be a win for teachers, students, workers and everything from youth recreation to minority entrepreneurship to after school programming, as well as for making sure Cincinnati is building an inclusive local economy, especially for the 45 percent that is African American and the half that is women. It also addresses urgent housing needs, as roughly 162 new units will be added to the community.

Construction of the stadium alone would bring 1,870 jobs, and an official Community Advisory Council will be established to walk with FCC and the city through each step.

“I think FC has been a lightning bolt of positive energy for our city, but frankly, I believe this announcement today is bigger than soccer,” Sittenfeld said. “It’s about leveraging this opportunity to touch people’s lives in a meaningful and positive way.”

As Council’s part of the deal, the city would put forward $34 million for stadium infrastructure on the project in the West End, which is $3 million less than what council agreed to do in Oakley.

CPS was scheduled to discuss the plan later Friday but various other representatives from the community who will be impacted were at the press conference in support, including former state Senator and African American Chamber of Commerce President Eric Kearney, a representative for the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers, West End Community Council President Keith Blake and others.

Blake spoke briefly in support, calling this the “beginning of a bright future” for the neighborhood which had expressed concerns about the stadium plans in the past.

Mann said he believes Friday’s announcement will give FCC what it needs to lock down the MLS bid. Cincinnati is among three finalists vying for an expansion franchise that was expected to be announced in December. Detroit and Sacramento are the other two candidates.

“I think it’s important for us to get a major league team,” Mann said. “I think it’s important it be in a location that works. I think it works in the West End, I think it works for the West End.”

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