FC Cincinnati: Major League Soccer officials to visit Cincinnati

A number of deals passed by Cincinnati Board of Education, Cincinnati City Council and the Hamilton County Commission among others need finalizing and vetting, FCC says, but league officials will visit Cincinnati as MLS mulls the team's bid

May 2, 2018 at 3:17 pm
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FC Cincinnati gave an update — sort of — on its chances of grabbing a Major League Soccer franchise today.

There's still no final word on whether the team will get an MLS franchise, but league commissioner Don Garber and MLS executives will tour Cincinnati soon and meet with team owners, FCC says.

According to a statement released today, FCC's president Jeff Berding, CEO Carl Lindner III and owner David Thompson met with MLS executives Sunday while in Los Angeles as guests of MLS for the opening ceremonies for the Banc of California Stadium, Los Angeles Football Club's new facility.

"During the trip to Los Angeles, discussions about our expansion bid occurred with MLS executives," the statement reads. "While extraordinary progress has been made, all of our work must be finalized — including various legal agreements with the city, port, county and CPS and an assessment of our interim MLS Nippert Stadium plan — before our bid will be 100 percent complete for final review."

Cincinnati City Council last month voted to approve a roughly $34 million package to help with infrastructure costs associated with building the stadium in the West End. Earlier, Cincinnati Public Schools Board of Education approved a deal swapping land where the district's Stargel Stadium sits with the team so it can build its MLS stadium there. In exchange, FCC will pay fees equivalent to property taxes to the district and build a new stadium for CPS across Ezzard Charles Drive.

Other deals are also on the table and would need to be finalized. The Greater Cincinnati Redevelopment Authority, formerly the Port Authority, indicated it would enter into an ownership-leaseback arrangement with the team that would allow FCC to avoid sales taxes on construction materials and property taxes. The Hamilton County Commission voted to build a $15 million parking garage for the stadium.

There has been significant pushback to the stadium as recently as today, when multiple anti-tax and housing advocate groups spoke before a Hamilton County Commission meeting to ask the county to reconsider its portion of the stadium deal given a looming $28 million deficit. FCC's stadium has been opposed by many in the West End, those groups pointed out, but if the county is going to build a parking garage for the stadium, they said, the team should have to pay property taxes on it.

"Cincinnati City Council’s stadium plan is exactly the kind of welfare for billionaires that voters despise,” said No More Stadium Taxes Chairman Jeff Capell. “County Commissioners cannot sit back and allow billionaire owners constructing a $200 million building to cheat their way out of their County tax obligations.”

Commissioners have said that they'll take stadium opponents' feedback into consideration. The three-member board — Democrats Todd Portune and Denise Driehaus and Republican Chris Monzel — haven't shown any sign of amending the county's deal with the team, however.