FC Cincinnati Owners Putting Pressure On County, City For Soccer-Specific Stadium
USL club FC Cincinnati President & GM Jeff Berding yesterday pressured Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune to "support a new soccer stadium -- with county-controlled money," as the stadium is "key to FC Cincinnati's bid to become a MLS team," according to Wartman, Knight & Brennan of the CINCINNATI ENQUIRER. Berding said that if the county and city pay for the infrastructure, FC Cincinnati will pay for the $200M stadium "with private money." The club needs local governments to pay $70-75M to "upgrade the roads, parking and other infrastructure." To do that, Berding "suggested the county's hotel tax." He said that the county's hotel tax revenue has $2.8M "left over each year for 'other projects.'" That could "pay off the debt for the infrastructure over about 30 years." The stadium's size will be "reduced from 25,000 seats to 21,000, the minimum needed for the MLS bid." FC Cincinnati Owner & CEO Carl Lindner III said of a potential MLS move, "It's our bid to lose at this point and the county commissioners need to understand that." Wartman, Knight & Brennan note Berding's announcement "comes a day before the Hamilton County Commission is expected to announce an offer to use Paul Brown Stadium." Portune has "supported using Paul Brown Stadium for the MLS bid." But Berding said that the team will "not win the MLS bid with Paul Brown Stadium" (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 11/15). SOCCER AMERICA's Paul Kennedy notes FC Cincinnati "already plays in" the Univ. of Cincinnati's Nippert Stadium. Detroit's bid for an MLS team "seems to have hit the skids with its plan to play" at Ford Field. FC Cincinnati "certainly has developed the support" for its team in the last two seasons. It has "broken every USL attendance record and many" U.S. Open Cup records (SOCCERAMERICA.com, 11/15).
EASY DECISION: Berding said that Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley has told FC Cincinnati owners the city will "back the remainder" of the $75M or so in "needed infrastructure ... but FC Cincinnati needs the county, too." Berding: "There's no way for the city to finance it by themselves. This should be a layup. It's a layup in that it's infrastructure and it's a layup in that it's a source of funds that no one is currently using and doesn't raise anyone's taxes." In Cincinnati, Steve Watkins noted FC Cincinnati's ownership group "upped its commitment" by $50M to $350M, including $150M for the MLS expansion franchise. It had originally committed to $250M and increased that to $300M last week when the group "decided to increase the size of the stadium from 21,000 seats to 25,000." With either plan, FC Cincinnati's owners had previously sought $100M in "financing from public sources." But the new plan "reduces that need for public money and puts the entire cost of the stadium on the backs of FC Cincinnati's owners." Still, that leaves the infrastructure money as the "shared responsibility of the city and county." Berding and Lindner both said that they are "extremely confident" FC Cincinnati will win an MLS expansion franchise if they can "nail down the stadium issue" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 11/14).
OPPOSING VIEWS: In Cincinnati, Paul Daugherty writes under the header, "FC Cincinnati Stadium Deal Won't Get Better Than This." The news conference yesterday was a "strong-arm move." Lindner and Berding "essentially said this to elected officials: We're giving you a sweetheart deal on a project that is needed for Cincinnati's continued growth." Daugherty: "You'd be crazy to say no. If you do, that's on you." There are "no new taxes," the team is staying in Ohio and there is "no hike in bed taxes." This "isn't a good deal." Compared to the "tried and true, blackmailing, arm-twisting, greedy, arrogant talents team owners have for ransoming their cities dry, it's a very good deal." Daugherty: "A miracle, almost" (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 11/15). Meanwhile, also in Cincinnati, Jason Williams writes under the header, "Thanks, Lindners, But We Don't Owe You Stadium Funds." Williams: "Let's make this clear: The great People of Greater Cincinnati don't owe you a thing. We're the ones who've helped put so much money in the family's pocket." Perhaps if there were not already "two taxpayer-funded sports stadiums sucking up our money" until the '30s, then Lindner "might get a pass on you owe us" (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 11/15).