FC Cincinnati hopes to bring a stadium to town that is unlike any other in the region or even the United States.
The second-year United Soccer League club unveiled designs for its proposed new stadium Monday at a town hall meeting with season ticket holders at Woodward Theater in Over-the-Rhine. FCC is hoping to earn one of the four remaining spots in Major League Soccer’s expansion plans and is required to have a club-controlled, soccer-specific stadium to be seriously considered.
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Architect Dan Meis, who designed the Bengals’ Paul Brown Stadium, described the plans as “really dynamic,” while engaging fans in the history of the game worldwide and activating the local neighborhood at the street level.
“We wanted to do something that’s really dynamic,” Meis said in an interview after the town hall meeting concluded. “There have been a lot of MLS stadiums over the years, a lot of new ones as the league grew, but we really wanted to bring an international flair to it, so drawing on some of the design ideas we’ve seen in some international buildings that really make the stadium stand out, no matter what the site is it becomes a beacon and I think represents that wild fan base we have.”
The idea is to build a 25,000-seat, $200 million soccer-specific stadium – with a grass pitch — on eight to 10 acres of land in either the West End/OTR area, Oakley or Newport, Ky. The facility would be a sort of horseshoe shape with a berm in the open end that could later be used to expand to 30,000 seats.
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Meis, who also is working with AS Roma and Everton international clubs on facilities, said the stadium would highlight Cincinnati’s innovation as a city through the use of Ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE), which is a translucent material that through LED lighting can make the building glow and change colors. The idea stemmed from Bayern Munich’s Allianz Arena.
FCC’s stadium also would include a fan plaza and Brew House that would connect the community to the club even outside of games.
“These buildings are really event driven and they come alive,” Meis said, noting that no other stadium in the U.S., other than the Vikings’ roof, uses ETFE material.
FC Cincinnati already had revealed three sites it could potential build the stadium, but president and general manager Jeff Berding said when the club submitted its MLS expansion application on Jan. 31, along with 11 other cities or organizations, FCC used the Ovation mixed-used development site in Newport as its location because it was the only one it knew it could control at the time.
The club entered into a development understanding with Bill Butler and Corporex, which owns most of the Northern Kentucky riverfront, before submitting the bid. The other two neighborhoods would require agreements from multiple owners but still remain possibilities.
“Our whole focus has been to try to find a way to build the stadium in Cincinnati,” Berding said. “However, the sites we are looking at are owned by multiple people and we may or may not be able to pull it off so it is great to have the opportunity to develop the stadium in Newport.”
Financing also remains a question. FCC has committed over half the stadium cost with $100 million pledged to the facility – on top of the MLS $150 million expansion fee the club will pay itself – but will need a public-private partnership to complete the project.
Berding suggested the use of tax increment financing and other economic incentives that are routinely used on development projects around the city, region and state, but said ultimately, it’s up to the elected officials.
“At some point, elected officials are going to decide,” Berding said. “The tools we are looking at are not the kind of tools that get voted on by an electorate because it’s not a new tax.”
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