FC Cincinnati president says stadium development plan coming next week

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - With another round of Major League Soccer expansion bids to be announced in December, FC Cincinnati president Jeff Berding feels a sense of urgency.

Berding seems to feel there is an opportunity to strike while the iron is hot, saying simply, "We have to act now," during a Thursday news conference.

With a second Los Angels team and a Miami squad set to become the league's 23rd and 24th franchises, Berding said Cincinnati has a good opportunity to become the league's 25th or 26th team in December.

"We're a proven market right now," he said, claiming FCC's attendance is competitive with current MLS numbers.

Becoming the 25th or 26th MLS franchise depends, of course, on everything falling into place. Berding says he has long been in discussions with Hamilton County regarding a new stadium for FCC. He believes FCC has been patient with the county in an effort to examine Paul Brown Stadium as a site for the team, but insisted Thursday landing an MLS bid would involve a soccer-specific stadium.

Sites in Oakley and Newport, Ky. were mentioned Thursday as potential landing spots for such a stadium, though FCC has not yet finalized a location, and as a result has not finalized their financing plans. Berding said other cities in the running for the 25th or 26th MLS spots, Sacramento and Nashville, have already finalized plans.

"In early December, the MLS process begins to move on its own accord," Berding said. "If we want to be considered with an opportunity to win the bid, we believe we need to have this done by the end of November."

Berding expects to announce a stadium development plan at some point next week, alongside Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley and other community leaders. With the shortening time line in mind, Berding said when a plan is presented, it will require timely action from government officials.

When asked about funding, Berding said he was aware of the area's history with the word "stadium."

"I understand this has the word 'stadium' in it, and this community has been somewhat scarred by that word," he said.

Berding said FCC is willing to put up $150 million of a $250 million stadium price tag, and the entirety of the $150 million for an MLS expansion fee. This would involve $100 million in support from elsewhere.

Further funding information depends on site-specific details, Berding said, adding he feels confident next week's announcement will show the public FCC has listened to their stadium-related funding concerns.

The 25th and 26th MLS teams would join the league in 2020. Berding hopes to have a soccer-specific stadium ready in time for that season.

Other news conference notables:

  • He expects the new soccer-specific stadium to be multi-use, but again, details are limited because no site has been chosen.
  • Berding believes bringing professional soccer to the area could help land an Amazon bid, future North American World Cup games, etc.
  • Berding said future MLS expansion bids could come with higher expansion fees, leaving less money for a future soccer-specific stadium.

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