Now or Never: Why Newport is the only viable home for FC Cincinnati
In March of 1996, Hamilton County residents voted in favor of a sales tax increase to help build Paul Brown Stadium and Great American Ballpark. Just over 20 years later, many people not just in Cincinnati, but around the United States, view this sales tax increase as one of the worst stadium deals in the history of sports.
Hamilton County has spent over $900 million dollars in terms of construction and stadium management to keep the Bengals in Cincinnati. In fact, the city had to sell off a hospital, laying off county workers to help pay for stadium upgrades. Add in additional tax increases, little revenue produced by the stadium going back to the county, and five straight first round playoff exits, no wonder the city of Cincinnati doesn't want to contribute financially to another stadium at all.
While I would love for FC Cincinnati's stadium to remain in Cincinnati (actually I would like FCC to keep playing at Nippert, but don't tell Don Garber that!), I'm a realist. And as a realist, there is only one place in the Greater Cincinnati Metropolitan Area that an MLS specific stadium will be built at, and that's in Newport.
First off, there is only about five months until the MLS announces the first two expansion teams. In terms of trying to secure public funding and land of any type, five months feels a lot more like five days. Things like making stadium deals take time, something that FC Cincinnati and the city of Cincinnati do not have a lot of at the moment. However, FC Cincinnati and the city of Newport have already been working together to build a stadium at the Ovation Development site since the beginning of the year, likely making the talks much more advanced than anything on the other side of the river. This works in favor of FC Cincinnati building in Newport.
Next, the financing of a potential stadium in Newport is almost complete. Tax Incremental Financing, known as a TIF, is a form of financing in which tax dollars that are generated by new homes and businesses surrounding the stadium would help pay off the debt. This form of financing also helps to satisfy the benefit principle in which the people who benefit most from the stadium would be the people contributing the most towards the stadium. Since the businesses surrounding a new stadium would benefit the most, it is only fair that they contribute the most in terms of taxes. A TIF is almost guaranteed to be approved in Newport, and when the TIF is approved, construction on the stadium on the Ovations Development site can be started almost immediately. This circumstance is a huge factor for FC Cincinnati in terms of picking a location.
Lastly, it provides a central location for fans. One of the main reasons why Paul Brown Stadium and Great American Ballpark were built downtown was that it is a central location that can reach a large number of fans. The same would be true for FC Cincinnati's new stadium, even though it would be located on the Kentucky side of the river. Downtown Cincinnati would provide a gorgeous backdrop for FCC games and it would only be a walk across the bridge from Cincinnati (Could you imagine doing a march to the stadium across the Ohio River? That would be cool!). This location has the potential to unite FC Cincinnati fans in Ohio and Northern Kentucky, something that the FC Cincinnati front office has to be thinking about.
Most soccer experts view FC Cincinnati as a team that is a soccer specific stadium away from being a shoo-in as an MLS expansion team. Don't get me wrong, a stadium in Over-the-Rhine would be amazing, but are we really going to let our chance of being an MLS team slip away just because we don't want to build a stadium in Newport? I don't think so, and I believe FC Cincinnati feels the same way.