Who to thank? FC Cincinnati can thank Mayor John Cranley for getting funding approved by the city council's budget committee for upwards of $37 million on infrastructure work.
In the face of stiff opposition to public support for the construction of new sports stadiums, FC Cincinnati has proposed to privately finance a $200 million soccer stadium if it can get help in paying for the estimated $75 million it needs to pay for infrastructure work -- roads, parking, improvements -- to provide access and support to the 21,000-seat stadium in the Oakley neighborhood.
FC Cincinnati had been hoping Hamilton County would come up with the $75 million. Cranley even identified $75 million being available in unallocated revenues from the hotel taxes Hamilton County collects each year, but county commissioners balked at the plan. They countered with helping fund a parking garage for stadium visitors to the tune of $15 million.
On Monday, the city's budget committee voted by 5-2 with one abstention and absence to approve the following funding plan (the full city council vote on Wednesday is considered a formality):
-- $7.5 million. From tax-increment financing (in center city TIF districts).
-- $7.38 million. From the city's sale of Blue Ash Airport.
-- $2.5 million. From city's 2019 capital budget (replacing $2.5 in tax-increment financing from the Oakley TIF district).
-- $10 million-$20 million. From city's portion of unused hotel tax, up to $1.5 million a year (though not guaranteed) for the next 30 years.
What about the shortfall? The city and county funding plans still leave FC Cincinnati about $23 million short in the money it says it needs for infrastructure work. And there is still the unknown about what is the true cost of making the soccer stadium accessible. That will only be known when a traffic study is completed.
Still, Cranley pitched the support for the stadium as "an historic no-brainer," given what he says the stadium -- and soccer -- will do for Cincinnati.
What will MLS do? There still remains the ultimate unknown: what will MLS do?
FC Cincinnati appears to be in a three-way fight with Sacramento and Nashville for the two MLS expansion teams to be awarded as the league's 25th and 26 teams in mid-December. Two others will awarded at a later date MLS has yet to announce.
Sacramento has already begun work on prepping its railyards site for its soccer stadium. Nashville recently approved plans for $275 million in spending for a soccer stadium at its fairgrounds. (The annual debt of $13 million on the revenue bonds would be repaid by the MLS group and from tax revenues on stadium events.)
One city will be disappointed unless MLS decides to move a third expansion team ahead of Miami -- whose current stadium plans have still not received MLS's official blessing more than three years after David Beckham was introduced as the lead owner for MLS's 24th team.