5 Facts about the FC Cincinnati Community Benefits Agreement

Not only did FC Cincinnati win on the field Wednesday, beating Detroit City FC 4-1, they won off the field as well.

While many supporters were gearing up for an intense U.S. Open Cup match, General Manager Jeff Berding took part in an intense set of negotiations that ultimately led to the signing of a new Community Benefits Agreement between the club and members of the West End neighborhood.

The signing of the CBA was the last major step for FC Cincinnati to complete in hopes of trying to land an MLS team, a dream that could become a reality as soon as next season. Once again, the ball is back in MLS’ side, with commissioner Don Garber likely to make a visit to the West End site before the month is over.

However, throughout the entire Major League Soccer expansion process, there has been a fair amount of misinformation that has been spreading, with some pieces of information spreading faster than others. At this point in the process it is important that the public can separate fact from fiction when it comes to the Community Benefits Agreement, something that I hope to do with this article.

FACT: FC Cincinnati will pay at least $100,000 to create and support a youth soccer program in the West End.

Often overlooked, I believe that this is a very important part of the CBA. Sport gives youth the opportunity to stay physically active, build lifelong skills (such as teamwork, dedication and perseverance) and make new friends. But most importantly, sport gives kids the opportunity to have fun!

According to a recent USA Today study, 9 out of 10 kids say they participate in sports to have fun. This commitment by FC Cincinnati will give kids living in the West End the opportunity to make lifelong friendships and have fun.

FACT: The building of the new FC Cincinnati Stadium in the West End will not tear down any houses.

According to Jason Williams of the Cincinnati Enquirer, no houses will be taken in the process of building the new stadium. Rather, the relocation of Stargel Stadium is the main concern in displacing any existing infrastructure. The good news here is that FC Cincinnati and Cincinnati Public Schools already have plans to build a new and improved $10 million Stargel Stadium just a block away. 

Where the FC stadium would be located in the West End

FACT: FC Cincinnati will conduct a housing study and support West End efforts to develop affordable housing in the neighborhood surrounding the stadium.

Even though no houses will be torn down in the stadium building process, there is certainly a justified fear that housing in the West End will become too expensive for current residents. For comparison, just take one look at the Banks downtown between Great American Ballpark and Paul Brown Stadium. The cost of a studio apartment at the Banks starts out at around $1,500 a month, with a 2-bedroom apartment costing north of $2,000 a month, definitely not classifying as affordable housing.

While the term “affordable housing” can be used loosely, it should be used in a way that does not displace current West End residents in the present or future. It is important that FC Cincinnati uses the existing sites that they have bought in the West End neighborhood to build new housing the current West End residents can afford not only now, but also in the future.

FACT: In building the stadium, the team will hire at least 25% minority-owned businesses, 7% women-owned businesses, and 30% small-businesses, with West End businesses being preferred for any contract as long as they meet all requirements.

While some may argue that these actions aren’t enough, it is certainly something that FC Cincinnati was not required to do and is a step in the right direction. This insert in the CBA will give opportunities to many businesses to showcase their talents that they might not be able to in other situations.

FACT: FC Cincinnati will hold job fairs in the West End, providing jobs that start $15 an hour. The team will give West End residents, even those will a criminal record, a first chance at these jobs.

A common, but often misleading, argument that sport executives use in trying to persuade the public to fund new stadiums is that it will lead to the creation of jobs, thus helping the economy. However, many of these jobs are construction related, jobs that disappear after stadium construction is complete, and often don’t contribute much to the local economy.

Other jobs created are usually part-time, minimum wage jobs, such as ticket takers, concession workers, and cleaning crew members. The reality is that a new stadium often does not lead to major increase in well-paying, full-time jobs.

However, the steps FC Cincinnati appear to be taking are encouraging. Rather than paying minimum wage, it appears to resemble something closer to that of a living wage. Even though these jobs most likely are still mainly part-time, the fact that these jobs will pay $15 an hour is a step in the right direction, not just for FC Cincinnati, but for the community as a whole.

Also, providing West End residents with the first chance at these jobs helps to empower the residents in which the new stadium will affect, and shows that FC Cincinnati truly wants to be a partner with the West End community, something that should not be taken for granted.

It is important to note that while all of this appears well, these provisions in the CBA are just in writing, none of these actions have occurred yet. If MLS does decide to reward the City of Cincinnati with a team in the highest level of soccer in the United States, it is important to hold FC Cincinnati accountable and make sure that they complete all of the things that they have promised in this CBA.

As it has been said before, “It’s easy to talk-the-talk, but it is harder to walk-the-walk”. If the club fails to live up to any part of this agreement, it is important that both West End residents and FC Cincinnati supporters put pressure on the club and ownership to live up to its side of the deal.

If this Community Benefits Agreement is seen through from start to finish, it will be a truly great accomplishment not only for FC Cincinnati and its supporters, but for the City of Cincinnati as well.