On July 9, FC Cincinnati raised the final steel beam making up the structure of its $250 million, 26,000-seat Major League Soccer stadium.
Next, it's on to interior work, finishing parking facilities, the stadium's grand staircase and other construction ahead of the stadium's slated opening date in April next year.
Team President Jeff Berding says the global coronavirus pandemic made sourcing some construction material challenging and necessitated some adjustments for worker safety, but that contractors Turner Construction were able to rearrange some scheduled work to keep the project on track. No employees were furloughed due to the pandemic, Berding says.
Among the stadium's highlights, according to Berding a fan section, called The Bailey, that is twice the size of FC Cincinnati's current fan section at University of Cincinnati's Nippert Stadium. The stadium will also sport the widest scoreboard of any soccer-specific stadium in the country and a sweeping, 30-foot-tall grand staircase that will welcome fans off Central Parkway. There will also be a beer garden on the stadium's east side, club seating options at a range of prices and more.
The team is currently building a 400-space parking garage under the site of the staircase. Land just north of the stadium will host another 850-car garage constructed by Hamilton County at a cost of roughly $10 million and a parking lot that could host future development. That land previously held apartment buildings housing more than a dozen tenants, who were relocated. Another large building north of the stadium once occupied by Tri-State Wholesale Building Supplies will become commercial space, Berding says.
Berding highlighted the fact that a Turner Construction hiring program has employed more than a dozen West End residents on the stadium construction team and trained a number of others for other construction jobs. He also pointed out that the team has spent $160 million in construction costs with small businesses, minority-owned or women-owned businesses.
The pandemic has added new layers of uncertainty to the complicated construction process, but team officials say they're confident the project will be complete on time and ready for soccer.
"We took reductions, starting with me," Berding says. "This is a long-term investment. This year is going to suck, but this is a long-term investment, and our owners understand that."
Should the pandemic still be an issue next spring, the team has taken measures to minimize risk, he says.
"We've made some design accommodations things in the restrooms and concessions, ticketless entrance, things of that nature to reduce contact. And we'll operate the building differently to keep it cleaner. At the end of the day, if we're only allowed X number of people, we'll only have X number of people. Our hope is, of course, that at some point after the first of the year there's a vaccine and we're here in the spring. But we've juggled the pandemic without incident and taken it very seriously. We've planned as much as we can plan, and now we're saying our prayers just like everyone else."
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