FC Cincinnati to school board: Let's talk about West End stadium

FC Cincinnati to school board: Let's talk about West End stadium

CINCINNATI - FC Cincinnati is still pursuing the possibility of building a stadium in the West End should the team be awarded a Major League Soccer franchise, FOX19 NOW has learned.

In the first public activity on the stadium location since the team made its pitch to MLS in December, FCC General Manager and President Jeff Berding sent a letter to the Cincinnati Public Schools board.

"One of the neighborhoods we have considered is the West End," Berding wrote in the two-page letter, which FOX19 NOW obtained Monday night.

"There are multiple locations in that neighborhood where the private investment of the stadium could generate considerable economic impact that would be positive in the West End and overall for our city," the letter states. "While we have not formally moved ahead as we await MLS feedback, we do want to keep as many options on the table as possible ..."

The letter is addressed to Cincinnati School Board President Carolyn Jones.

"We would welcome, at the appropriate time, a meeting to discuss a potential FCC-CPS partnership in the event we choose to pursue a West End stadium location," the letter says. "In a similar manner FCC developed a win-win partnership with the University of Cincinnati that made Nippert Stadium our home."

Berding did not specifically mention Taft High School's Stargel Stadium that is rumored to be a part of the land needed should the stadium rise  in the West End. But, FCC would need the school board's approval for that land.

The Oakley site – for which City Council and the Hamilton County commissioners have approved a combined $51 million in infrastructure support– remains in play, Berding wrote in his letter.

The Oakley location still has hurdles to clear. Leaders will consider the impacts of increased traffic such a facility would bring and hold more discussions with neighborhood stakeholders.

MLS officials also have said they wants an urban location. It's not clear yet if they consider Oakley one.

Berding has publicly mentioned the West End, but his letter is the strongest  statement yet that the team is looking seriously at the historic neighborhood adjacent Downtown to the northwest.

A third potential location for the stadium is Newport, but focus has been on Cincinnati ones.

School district spokeswoman Lauren Worley told our news partner the Cincinnati Enquirer she could not confirm that CPS received the letter but reiterated the district's stance that it would welcome conversations with FC Cincinnati.

"Strong community partnerships and strategic alignments are essential to the success of the district," Worley said in a statement to the Enquirer, "and we are grateful for our continued partnership with FCC on school athletics programs in CPS, particularly our recently announced Futsal Partnership with FCC and Kings Hammer."

FC Cincinnati is one of three teams that remain under consideration for an MLS expansion franchise.

More franchise announcements are expected before the new season starts.

The bid package required information about a soccer-specific stadium, prompting a contentious public discussion about where it should go.

Team owners have said they will pay $150 million for a franchise and privately pay for a $200 million, 21,000-seat stadium.

Oakley, on the site of the former Cast-Fab Factory, is the site FC Cincinnati presented to MLS. However, the financial support approved by the city and county left open the possibility of a different location.

"During the time of developing our MLS bid, we also evaluated potential locations in other neighborhoods in our community," Berding wrote in his letter to CPS.

"Many of those sites have been presented to us. As you can imagine, the draw of a $200 million privately-funded stadium has attracted a great deal of interest."

FOX19 NOW media partner Cincinnati Enquirer contributed to this report.

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