FC Cincinnati plan for Cincinnati-based stadium still in limbo

A day after FC Cincinnati set out its case for building an MLS soccer stadium in Cincinnati -- it will pay for the stadium if it gets help paying for $70 million-$75 million in infrastructure work on parking, roads and utilities -- the Hamilton County commissioners issued their proposal, far short of what FC Cincinnati was asking for.

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. But it wants Hamilton County to commit to providing $2.8 million a year over 30 years from the revenues it collects on its "hotel tax" to help in paying for the work around the stadium.

Football stadium option. Hamilton County Commission president Todd Portune stated on Wednesday the commission's first priority is to try to convince FC Cincinnati to play at the Paul Brown Stadium, the home of the NFL Bengals. If that didn't work out, the commission's fall-back position is to contribute parking revenues from waterfront garages worth an estimated $12-$15 million to pay for a 1,000-car parking garage, far short of the $70 million-$75 million FC Cincinnati was seeking for infrastructure work.

FC Cincinnati's position is that the money is already available from the hotel tax revenues being collected and not redistributed -- and available for the kind of tourism-promotion project the money is intended for -- so the deal would not result in an increase in the hotel tax itself.

"It's our bid to lose at this point and the county commissioners need to understand that," said FC Cincinnati owner Carl H. Lindner III at a press conference on Tuesday.

Paul Brown Stadium is considered a non-starter. FC Cincinnati already plays in -- and draws huge crowds -- at a football stadium, the University of Cincinnati's Nippert Field, but MLS's preference is that a team plays in a soccer stadium at which it controls all revenue sources. Detroit's stock in the MLS expansion race dropped with its plan to play at the NFL Lions' Ford Field instead of building a downtown soccer stadium.

Kentucky option. FC Cincinnati still has some leverage. Its first preference has to build in Cincinnati, likely its Oakley neighborhood, but it could seek to move across the Ohio River and conclude a deal to build a waterfront stadium in Newport, Kentucky.

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