The Stadium: "Build it Here" v.s. the People of Cincinnati
Ever since FC Cincinnati GM Jeff Berding unveiled his plans for the city's next step toward it's MLS future, FCC's hopes for its own stadium has been mired in controversy. The initial images showed a beautiful stadium design and an exciting future for the club, with the Cincinnati skyline displayed wonderfully in the background. It was revealed these plans were for a stadium in Newport, not Cincinnati. Although it has been expressed the organization fully intends to build on the Ohio side of the river, the Newport location was the only one they knew they could get for sure. FC Cincinnati's own city was and continues to fight against them.
The debate was sparked between many parties including the "Build It Here" group who demands that FCC stays in Cincinnati, the people of Cincinnati who are skeptical of building yet another professional sports stadium after footing the bill for Great American and Paul Brown, the City Council and Hamilton County Commissioners who are apprehensive and seemingly leaning towards no, and the people of Newport/Northern Kentucky who are ready to accept FCC with open arms.
The big issue here is funding, as Carl Linder III (the majority owner of the club) has gone on record saying he is willing to throw down $150 million for the MLS fee and another $100 million to cover half the stadium cost, which means there is an elusive $100 million out there FCC still needs. The organization has promised it will not propose a new tax to pay off the stadium, but are still seeking some type of public funding from TIF (tax increment financing). It's unclear if Linder is willing to foot the rest of the bill for the time being or if he's capping himself at $250 million. Regardless the people of Cincinnati who are not infatuated with the club are apprehensive to jump onboard as well as their officials. They've been burned before from stadium deals and professional sports don't exactly have the best connotation around this city.
So each side has been vying for control as we near closer and closer to the November/December deadline for accepting clubs for MLS expansion. Major League Soccer requires it's new teams to have their own soccer specific stadium (unless you're Atlanta United). FC Cincinnati meets and exceeds every necessary qualification for MLS expansion, except for their own stadium of which is turning out to be the toughest part.
The club and it's supporters finds itself in an ultimatum; do they keep fighting and trying to find its place in Cincinnati with the risk of losing their golden opportunity for professional expansion, or do they give into their southern neighbors at the risk of losing some of their Cincinnati support as well as dealing with the fact that FC Cincinnati is not "technically" in Cincinnati.
It's a tough spot to be in, but local group "Build It Here" are trying to rally the troops to let their city officials know the team needs to stay where it started. But a recent WCPO article dealt a blow to the group revealing that Cincinnati officials have only received a handful of emails and letters on the topic, with some for and against the stadium. This was surprising given how intense and deep the fanbase's support is for the club, but so far it appears that they have not taken the next step. If FCC fans really want to keep this club here, they have to act. They need to send emails, letters, call the offices, organize rallies, do marches, hold events, do everything they can to garner as much vocal support as possible.
So far the "Build It Here" group has fallen flat, but I stand with them and if you do too, they need your support.
Either way FC Cincinnati stands to benefit wherever it is built, but to move it across the river could cause a potentially negative effect on the fan base. Part of the club's success is it's location in Clifton. It's got lots of young people, lots of bars and places to eat, plenty of parking garages, and UC's campus is fairly easy to access/traverse. MLS will never let FCC stay in Nippert permanently if they want to go professional, but the next best play to maintain this feel is in OTR/downtown Cincinnati. FCC thrives off of that homegrown, exciting fanbase. Perhaps making the trek to Newport won't deter them at all and they'll still come in full force, but it just won't feel the same as having it in our own city, the clubs real home.
I know this city has been burned before, but FC Cincinnati is different, and the people of Cincinnati should give it a chance and respect all the incredible success they've garnered so far. We cannot miss this opportunity, Cincinnati will only become greater from it.
If interested in checking out what Build It Here has to say and see what events they are holding, you can check out their Facebook page here.
Should FC Cincinnati stay in Cincinnati? Or can it simply not work here? Let us know at @BaileyBanterFC and @R_Taulbee.