On Thursday evening around 7:30 p.m., the hopes of FC Cincinnati fans wishing for an MLS bid seemed to experience a crushing blow. FC Cincinnati released a statement saying both the Oakley & Newport sites were not finalized and that the club’s perceived preferred site in the West End was still needing political support. Then on Friday morning, Cincinnati City Councilmembers PG Sittenfeld and David Mann released a statement announcing a press conference to discuss the West End situation.
In a situation resembling a knight rescuing a damsel in distress, Sittenfeld on Friday laid out a plan agreed to by FC Cincinnati and other parties to build an MLS stadium in the West End. The plan at the Taft HS Stargel Stadium site, calls for the city to contribute $33.8 million in taxpayer-funded infrastructure, but more importantly, it delivers Sittenfeld’s deciding vote in passing legislation through the council.
What could have changed in twelve hours? One could speculate, but it seems at the eleventh-hour, Sittenfeld, Mann, members of council and the West End community got all parties on board the proposal which will provide a pathway to a soccer-specific stadium.
Over the span of 6 months, key councilmembers have lent their support with Mann, Kevin Flynn, Amy Murray, Charlie Winburn and Chris Smitherman approving an Oakley proposal 5-3 in 2017. Things seemed to be on the outs after the newest council took office with only Mann, Murray, now Vice-Mayor Smitherman and newcomer Jeff Pastor being in favor. Councilmembers Wendell Young, Chris Seelbach, Greg Landsman, Tamaya Dennard, and Sittenfeld were all thought to have hesitations about the plan before the new Sittenfeld/Mann proposal. It remains to be seen how the final vote will pan out, but it is doubtful both Mann and Sittenfeld would have proposed this deal without assurances a majority of council will pass the deal.
The new majority of Mann, Sittenfeld, Murray, Smitherman, and Pastor would likely guarantee the city a Major League Soccer bid by the middle of April if reports are true. During a Cincinnati Public School Board press conference at 12:30 p.m., President Carolyn Jones gave the plan the boards support and said the plan was to acquire property in the West End including Stargel before the MLS Board of Governors meeting on April 17th.
While many specifics of the plan are being ironed out, it seems as the Mann/Sittenfeld brokered deal will include public funds from the city & county but also has FCC paying what they call their “fair share” of taxes. Sittenfeld provided a short outline below on how the plan benefits both the city, community, and club. Their deal provides over $53 million in added benefits such as payments in lieu of taxes to Cincinnati Public Schools, affordable housing units, a new Stargel Stadium, and annual payments directly to various West End organizations such as the Little Senators Youth Sports and a West End Athletic Association.
— Cincy Soccer Talk (@cincysoccertalk) April 6, 2018
A key catalyst for the deal was Sittenfeld’s desire to keep “FC Cincinnati in Cincinnati.” “What will happen if instead of seizing this opportunity, we let it pass us by and go across the river to Kentucky?” Sorry Louisville fans, but you won’t be able to use your FC Newport chants on Saturday.
This could end up being a huge win for Sittenfeld as his leadership on the issue was praised by both Mann and former mayor Mark Mallory. “Essence of leadership is how to get things done. David Mann & PG exhibited leadership allowing this thing to move forward. He also mentioned how this proposal will be great for the West End with its focus on a better future for their kids.
In what has been a long process, this plan seems to put the final playbook in action for the club to secure a bid into the country’s top soccer league. According to the document below, Cincinnati Public Schools, Cincinnati City Council, and FC Cincinnati will have to have several items in place before the MLS meetings on April 17th. Sittenfeld did mention the council could pass the plan on Wednesday, April 11th in time for the MLS meeting. We could know as early as Monday who is in favor with a Council Committee set to take up the issue.
CPS and the club will need to officially agree to terms on several issues including the payments and a new Stargel among others, but it is assumed that FCC is ready to move forward after Sittenfeld’s comments. The club will also look to purchase 75% of the required sites needs by next weekend to show the league this plan is near completion.
According to documents FC Cincinnati provided to @IamCPS the goal is to have 75% of the West send site (including Stargel Stadium) under control by April 17. 11 days, folks. pic.twitter.com/DPez5NMkle
— Amanda Seitz (@AmandaSeitz1) April 6, 2018
While this plan is not officially accepted, the parties supporting the plan include the West End Community Council, Cincinnati Public Schools, Building Trade Organizations, Builders Unions, the African American, Latino, and Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce and many West End Community groups.
This seems at first glance like a win-win for all parties. While not all the details have been ironed out, the Sittenfeld/Mann plan should get FC Cincinnati to the proverbial finish line of receiving an MLS bid. The stadium building process will still take several years to complete and the club will also have to provide affordable housing units in the community. As it stands Sittenfeld, Mann, and Jeff Berding should receive a lot of credit in getting this completed, but many of us know there have been hundreds of people that have come together in our community to continue the city’s upward growth. Great job Cincinnati. Now let’s realize our dream.
For more information on the stadium, I recommend you read these great pieces.
Amanda Seitz – WCPO – https://www.wcpo.com/sports/fc-cincinnati/watch-city-councilman-pg-sittenfeld-to-make-announcement-on-fc-cincinnati-stadium-site-friday
Sharon Coolidge and Cameron Knight – Cincinnati Enquirer – https://www.cincinnati.com/story/news/politics/2018/04/06/fc-cincinnati-deal-likely-clinches-soccer-stadium-west-end/492629002/
Check out @CincySoccerTalk for more stadium information.