Sounds From FC Cincinnati's Coming Stadium Could be Audible in Music Hall, Report Finds

The "sobering" study from an acoustics firm found that noise from FC Cincinnati's coming 26,000-seat stadium in the West End would likely be audible in Music Hall's performance and rehearsal space and could prove disruptive.

click to enlarge Music Hall - Hailey Bollinger
Hailey Bollinger
Music Hall

A preliminary report by acoustics experts commissioned by the Cincinnati Arts Association has found that sounds from FC Cincinnati games played at the team's coming West End stadium will be audible inside Music Hall, home of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and other arts organizations.

FC Cincinnati is constructing the $250 million stadium after it won a bid to join Major League Soccer last year. It chose the location in the West End, just across Central Parkway and one block north from Music Hall, after months of debate and deal-making. But, according to the acoustic analysis, the noise from the stadium could prove disruptive to performances and rehearsals conducted at the prominent and recently-renovated Cincinnati landmark.

"Crowd noise from soccer matches will be readily audible in Springer Auditorium," the study from Connecticut-based Akustiks LLC concludes about Music Hall's main performance space. "The model predicts that at its peak (fans responding to a home team goal, for example), crowd noise will exceed the background noise in Music Hall by between as much as 12 dB at some frequencies. This noise would be readily audible by the audience and the performers and would interfere with the subtle moments of performances by the resident companies." 

The report goes on to say that crowd noise won't be audible in Music Hall's May Festival Chorus Rehearsal Room due to that room's more extensive sound-proofing, but that amplified music from concerts at the stadium will be evident in both locations.

"Unlike the crowd noise impacts from soccer matches, which are focused on mid and low frequencies (i.e., the peak of the human vocal range), the impacts from amplified concerts in the stadium would be evident across much of the frequency range," the report reads. "The impacts are greatest when the stage is positioned at the north end of the field facing toward the south (i.e., toward Music Hall) In this scenario, at very low frequencies (the octave bands at 63 Hz. and 125 Hz.), the intrusion would be between 11 and 15 dB higher than the background noise in Springer. This would be readily audible by the audience and the performers and would prove disruptive to both rehearsals and performances."

The report's author called the findings "sobering." The final version of the report, which will include noise mitigation options, is expected next week.

FC Cincinnati's 26,000-seat stadium will be in use on some Saturday nights, likely sometimes at the same time as Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra concerts.

If FC Cincinnati was playing in the West End this year, there would be one night — March 30 — when the CSO would also be performing at the same time. On another date, May 25, Cincinnati's May Festival would be occurring at the same time as an FC Cincinnati game. An event by Cincinnati Pops also presents a schedule overlap. Another event, a performance by the Cincinnati Opera in Music Hall's Wilks Auditorium, also falls on July 22, the same day as an FC Cincinnati game, though the time for that game has not yet been set.

There are sound barriers planned for the stadium, but the report says those will likely be insufficient due to the open space at the top of the stadium. 

FC Cincinnati officials, however, point out that the team's current home, University of Cincinnati's Nippert Stadium, is a higher capacity, open venue that is closer to UC's College-Conservatory of Music, and that games there have not been disruptive. The coming West End stadium will be about 600 feet from performance space at Music Hall. Nippert is roughly 400 feet from CCM's performance spaces.

“I will contrast the models of their consultant with three years of experience at Nippert Stadium,” FC Cincinnati President and General Manager Jeff Berding said in a statement. “Let me repeat, in three years of playing more than 50 matches at Nippert Stadium, in an open-design stadium with bigger crowds and closer proximity to arts venues, there have been NO complaints of noise. Our team has worked in good faith collaboration with these arts groups and their consultant and will continue to prove how our organizations can be great contributors to what makes Cincinnati a major league community.“

But Cincinnati Arts Association Vice President for Marketing and Communications Van Ackerman says the report shows FC Cincinnati's coming stadium could have serious impacts on performances in Music Hall.

"We all have an obligation to preserve the successful ongoing operation of Music Hall, and to protect it as a critical community asset, especially given the recent $143 million investment in its revitalization,"  Ackerman said.

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