FC Cincinnati's expansion gambit: 'We will 100 percent privately finance the stadium'

In its effort to finalize the missing piece in its bid for an MLS team, FC Cincinnati is ready to privately finance the construction of a soccer stadium.

Cincinnati is a tough market to win support for the public financing of a sports facility -- it's done that with the Browns' Paul Brown Stadium and Reds' Great American Ball Park and most city officials don't want to go there again -- so FC Cincinnati has backed off from its request for $100 million in public funding.

Instead of building a 25,000-seat stadium for $250 million, FC Cincinnati -- which appears to be in a three-way fight with Sacramento and Nashville for the two MLS expansion teams to be awarded in mid-December -- has proposed building a 21,000-seat stadium and paying for it itself.

"In order to get this done, what we're talking about a private investment in the magnitude of $200 million," FC Cincinnati president/general manager Jeff Berding said at a news conference on Tuesday.

There's one catch: FC Cincinnati needs help paying for $70 million-$75 million in infrastructure work -- roads, parking, improvements -- and wants Hamilton County to join the city of Cincinnati in helping pay for it. FC Cincinnati wants Hamilton County to commit to providing $2.8 million over 30 years from the revenues it collects on its "hotel tax."

FC Cincinnati's position is what that the deal is what Berding termed a "layup" and that the money is already available -- and available for the kind of project the money is intended for -- so the deal would not result in an increase in the hotel tax.

"It's our bid to lose at this point and the county commissioners need to understand that," said owner Carl H. Lindner III

The Hamilton County commission is scheduled to meet on Wednesday and respond to its request though it is not currently favorable to using the hotel tax on the stadium infrastructure. The commissioners are expected to offer Paul Brown Stadium as an alternative, which FC Cincinnati considers a non-starter.

FC Cincinnati already plays in -- and draws huge crowds -- at a football stadium, the University of Cincinnati's Nippert Field. Detroit's bid for an MLS team seems to have hit the skids with its plan to play at the NFL Lions' Ford Field instead of build a downtown soccer stadium.

FC Cincinnati's leverage is its Plan B. Instead of building in Cincinnati's Oakley neighborhood, it could move across the Ohio River and build a waterfront stadium in to Newport, Kentucky, where a developer is already lined up.

FC Cincinnati certainly has developed the support for its USL team in its two seasons. It has broken every USL attendance record and many Open Cup records, and expects to hit its target of 15,000 season tickets for 2018. On Monday, it announced a 10-year jersey sponsorship deal with Mercy Health -- contingent on FC Cincinnati playing in MLS -- that would be one of the most lucrative jersey deals in the league.

1 comment about "FC Cincinnati's expansion gambit: 'We will 100 percent privately finance the stadium'".
  1. beautiful game, November 15, 2017 at 6:01 p.m.

    Will grass or astro-turf rule?

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