Would MLS support Paul Brown Stadium? 'Never, never, never' says FCC GM

FCC President and General Manager Jeff Berding (Left) Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune (Right)
FCC President and General Manager Jeff Berding (Left) Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune (Right)

CINCINNATI (FOX19) - Hamilton County commissioners believe there is a Plan A and a Plan B when it comes to pursuing an MLS expansion bid in a taxpayer-friendly manner.

Plan A is using Paul Brown Stadium. Plan B is using parking revenues to help build a parking structure at a potential soccer-specific Oakley site.

When asked if the MLS would support Paul Brown Stadium, FC Cincinnati president and general manager Jeff Berding said this via text Wednesday: "Never, never, never."

Earlier this month, Berding said a soccer-specific stadium would be crucial in landing an MLS expansion bid in December. He said two other front runners for the league's 25th and 26th slots, Nashville and Sacramento, already have finalized plans.

Commissioners said Wednesday that Hamilton County is willing to partner with FC Cincinnati and the city of Cincinnati for the purpose of addressing the facility needs expressed by the team, but a new soccer-specific site is not the preferred option.

The New England Revolution play at Gillette Stadium, where the Patriots play. Hamilton County commissioner Todd Portune believes the MLS should be open to a similar situation unfolding in Cincinnati (Paul Browns Stadium is where the Bengals play).

FC Cincinnati has offered to privately fund a soccer stadium, but the club needs the city and Hamilton County to cover the estimated $75 million infrastructure costs. This, again, is a Plan B in Hamilton County's eyes. Commissioners said Wednesday it would be open to using parking revenues to help with a soccer-specific site.

Portune feels the county owes it to the taxpayers to pursue Plan A as far as possible.

Under Plan B, the county would use money from Riverfront parking revenues to build a 1,000-space parking garage in Oakley.

"This is not tax money, not taxpayer-generated money, not money that comes from taxes paid by the people of Hamilton County or people visiting Hamilton County, but money from our parking revenues," Portune said.

Below is FC Cincinnati's full statement, released Wednesday:

FCC’s statement in response to Hamilton County’s media briefing

“We are pleased that the County Commission today acknowledged the importance of winning an MLS bid, and the appropriate role of government to fund project infrastructure. Whether it is on the Banks with building parking garages, supporting the GE Global Operations Center or countless other examples, governments traditionally fund project infrastructure. Here, our ownership will cover the cost of the stadium, and we are asking governments to fund parking garages, streets and road improvements, utilities and the like.

It was good to see the County Commission come to the table, offering non general fund resources to help cover the necessary infrastructure costs.

At this time, we have not had spoken with Hamilton County officials, only hearing the public statements today. The next step is to talk further with the County officials and Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley to see whether, after today’s initial offer to build a parking garage, we can get there on needed infrastructure. Our owners and FC Cincinnati will fund the stadium but will not be funding public infrastructure routinely covered by governments.

Part of the conversation with the Mayor and County will be to ensure the County is clear on needed infrastructure costs. In today’s presentation, the numbers did not add up, but we can clarify in person.

We will happily work decisively this week with Hamilton County to ensure they are fully informed relative to Paul Brown Stadium. As it relates to the need for a soccer specific stadium, the MLS sets its requirements in the best interest of the League. Respectively, they know the business of soccer and the League the best. The financial data that we transparently shared with the County proves to us that Paul Brown Stadium would not support an MLS team, but we are interested to see how they could have come to a different conclusion.

Winning MLS expansion gives us a third pro franchise and promotion in the global game of soccer. With the appropriate city and county support, our ownership group is playing to win the bid and not to stand by and see Greater Cincinnati lose out. As we said yesterday, MLS Expansion is our bid to lose.

I am currently in Houston presenting the Cincinnati region to the US Soccer Federation for the opportunity to win a Host City award for the 2026 World Cup. FC Cincinnati’s success over the last two years is an enormous attraction supporting our efforts.  

Once I return late tonight, we will be back at it working with elected officials to see how we can get there to cover the public funding for public infrastructure to support a privately financed stadium at one of our sites.”

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