FC Cincinnati Confident In Pitch Heading Into Final Presentation For MLS Expansion Spot
FC Cincinnati execs will be in N.Y. today to "present what amounts to a closing argument" to MLS regarding the USL club's bid to "gain an expansion spot," according to Patrick Brennan of the CINCINNATI ENQUIRER. Club President & GM Jeff Berding and Owner & CEO Carl Lindner III and "possibly others will present for approximately two hours." The presentation will "likely be a carefully choreographed highlighting of the deliverable and lofty projections FC Cincinnati has compiled over its nearly three years in existence." Today's presentation will be the club's "fourth known meeting with MLS officials" (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 12/6). In Cincinnati, Steve Watkins noted all four MLS expansion candidates will make presentations today to MLS Commissioner Don Garber and the league's expansion committee." Owners will meet Dec. 14 to "further discuss expansion with an announcement due before the end of the year -- likely within about a week of the owners meeting." Many experts see Sacramento as a "lock and believe the MLS wants one club for its Western Conference and one for the Eastern Conference." Nashville and Cincinnati are "widely viewed as the top contenders for the other spot." Detroit has "plans to play at Ford Field," while the other three cities have "plans for their own soccer stadiums." Berding said, "We're up against three other cities that are strong candidates. ... I do think the fact we're proven and not a projection should be a compelling case. I feel confident and proud that I can make the best case for an MLS franchise in Greater Cincinnati." Berding added that the group will "emphasize that FC Cincinnati has proven its success as a soccer club with strong local support" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 12/5).
ADDING TO ITS CASE: Watkins in a separate piece reported FC Cincinnati has broken its own USL record for season-ticket sales as the club is "now near 13,000 season tickets sold for the season." The club, which sold 11,739 season-tickets last year, "hasn't even opened up season ticket sales to the general public yet." Returning season-ticket members had "first crack at renewing their tickets and had the chance to add seats and change seat locations." Fans who "put down a deposit during the season got the next shot at buying season tickets." FC Cincinnati Dir of PR Fumi Kimura said that the club "expects to break its own full-season attendance record next year if it can hit its goal of selling 15,000 season tickets this year." FC Cincinnati "averaged 21,199 fans per regular-season USL match last season," which "broke its record of 17,296 set" in '16, its inaugural season. The club will "get an additional home game this coming season," as USL is "adding two more games per team for a 34-game schedule" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 12/4).
RAISING FUNDS: In Cincinnati, Coolidge & Coolidge reported the city hopes to obtain $10M from the state to "help cover costs related to building the FC Cincinnati stadium, should the city be awarded" an MLS expansion team. An infusion of that sum "would get the public infrastructure package within striking distance" of the $70-75M total needed to "build roads, sewers and utilities and make a site in Oakley a viable stadium option." Cincinnati and Hamilton County have "already agreed" to pony up $51M, while the team would "build the stadium itself" (CINCINNATI.com, 12/2). The CINCINNATI ENQUIRER's Brennan wondered, "Could the timing of a process that ended in public support for FC Cincinnati's stadium actually harm the team's expansion bid?" Some "seem to think so, although the criteria for expansion outlined by MLS long ago doesn't explicitly suggest a longer process like what played out" in Cincinnati would be penalized. MLS declined to "comment on whether public dialogue and the duration of municipal proceedings are of material consequence to the expansion process." But it is "likely MLS will simply weigh most heavily whether or not FC Cincinnati's bid meets the criteria long ago outlined by the league." Many observers both locally and nationally "view FC Cincinnati as having checked off those boxes" (CINCINNATI.com, 12/3).