When FC Cincinnati settles into its new home in the West End beginning in March, 2021, the city could decide to close portions of Central Parkway around the stadium for up to six hours a day.
But some council members want to get more input from those living in the neighborhoods around the stadium before any decisions are made about blocking traffic on a short section of the major artery running from uptown to downtown.
Cincinnati Department of Transportation and Engineering's Bryan Williams told council that the city is mulling shutting down Central Parkway for four hours before FC Cincinnati's Major League Soccer games and for up to two hours afterward.
That's to help protect the estimated 12,000 people who will cross that street on game days to make their way to and from parking and nightlife options that mostly exist in Over-the-Rhine right now. But that time frame is not set in stone and could change as the city receives more information about what game days will look like in terms of parking and traffic.
Cincinnati Police Sergeant Timothy Fritz said that other safety concerns about possible violent acts would require closures.
"I can’t allow a vehicle-borne IED (improvised explosive device) to pull up on Central Parkway and detonate when there are 26,000 people in the stadium," Fritz said, noting that canine units that sniff out explosives would need to sweep cars parking in parking garages on city streets. "That’s just fact. That’s the society we live in.”
Fritz said that's common practice for other major league sporting events, including Bengals games. While some of those game days do involve canine explosive sweeps, they don't trigger the closure of Second and Third Streets downtown, which pedestrians often cross on their way to the stadium. Some side streets around the stadium do close on game days, however.
Council member Chris Seelbach questioned whether the closure of the major street would be fair to residents of the West End and Over-the-Rhine.
"Central Parkway is the main thoroughfare for the neighborhood," Seelbach said, noting the coming stadium is already shaping up to have big negative impact on the predominantly low-income African American community. "This is going to be a big change for them — closing their main thoroughfare six hours a day 25 times a year… that would have a big impact on our lives. We need to engage the community councils on this, because it is their lives that will be impacted the most.”
Fritz argued that safety should come first.
"The police department did not put this stadium where it was put," he said. "We are stuck with dealing with the fallout of where it was put. Taking everyone into consideration, whether it’s the residents, the businesses or the people coming to the games, our stance is we want to make it as safe as possible.”
Assistant City Manager John Juech stressed that the city hasn't reached any definitive conclusions yet.
"I want to be very clear that no final decisions have been made at this time," he said. "Nothing has been decided as to how the traffic patterns will work when the stadium is open.”
Councilmember Greg Landsman says he supports community input about the street closures and pointed out that the stadium's projected opening day is almost two years away.
"We’ll want to do as much community engagement around this as possible, and the sooner the better.” Landsman said.“The good thing is, there’s time.”