Former mayor, on FC Cincinnati's interest in West End: 'Wake up and see what time it is'

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Though FC Cincinnati's future with Major League Soccer is unclear, West End residents being crystal clear about the fact they don't want a soccer stadium anywhere near Taft High School.

Former Cincinnati Mayor Dwight Tillery talked at a community meeting Thursday about need versus want and expressed displeasure with an inability to find the funds for West End projects in years past.

"They're going to gentrify all the way down to the boathouse," he said. "Wake up and see what time it is. They ain't playing with us. And let's go Monday and tell them we ain't playing with them."

"Why is it when they want our land that they decided all of the sudden we need to invest?"

FC Cincinnati is still considering several locations for a soccer-specific stadium. Just this week the Hamilton County Commissioners renewed a promise to build a parking garage for such a stadium.

Some in the West End say if it ends up there it not only changes dynamic of the neighborhoods, it will wipe away a stadium built for Taft High and other schools in that area.

"To bring a stadium in there ... that is the beginning of the total destruction of that neighborhood, which is a historic neighborhood for African American citizens," said Cecil Thomas, a member of the Ohio Senate.

Team president and general manager Jeff Berding released a statement Thursday night that read, in part:

We hope West End residents and community leaders will be open-minded to what a potential FC Cincinnati stadium site in the West End could bring to the community.

Berding said the team hopes to learn this month whether it has been granted an MLS expansion bid. If awarded a franchise, FC Cincinnati will build a new, privately funded $200 million-plus soccer stadium. The West End, Oakley, and a site in Newport are all technically still in play for the stadium site.

Interest in the Oakley and Newport sites has seemed to wane since the club made its pitch to MLS in December. Prior to the pitch, the club said it'd be taking the Oakley site plans with them.

West End discussions have ramped up as of late. According to our partners at the Cincinnati Enquirer, the team hired former mayor Mark Mallory, "whose family is West End royalty," to help communicate with West End residents.

Here's more from Berding's Thursday statement regarding a possible West End site:

We are frustrated that we cannot share more detail at this time but have said that some of the site configurations include Stargel Stadium, some do not. If we would build on a site that included Stargel, FCC commits to building a new bigger and better Stargel adjacent to the school.

Will the club find out about the bid by March? That remains unclear but is the hope.

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