Have FC Cincinnati's West End dreams been dashed? Team releases statement

Rendering of a FC Cincinnati soccer-specific stadium. (FOX19 NOW/file)
Rendering of a FC Cincinnati soccer-specific stadium. (FOX19 NOW/file)

WEST END, OH (FOX19) - There has been plenty of back and forth Wednesday between FC Cincinnati and Cincinnati Public Schools.

Earlier Wednesday, the club said it was doubling down on a deal to build a soccer stadium in the West End neighborhood. The club said it would pay CPS $750,000 each year for a decade to build a new stadium on CPS-owned land.

The club had indicated that it was imperative the team got a response from the district Wednesday by 5 p.m. whether the board would accept FC Cincinnati's offer of Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) in accordance with the district's tax abatement agreement.

FCC called the offer "significantly better than the status quo."

"This proposal provides CPS more tax revenue than a stadium site in Oakley or in Newport, KY -- which would be zero," an FCC statement reads.

The club is hoping to build on the site of Stargel Stadium, which is currently used by Taft High School.

To that, the CPS Board of Education sent a letter to FC Cincinnati attorneys regarding the parameters of a proposed land agreement.

The letter requests again that FC Cincinnati provide the Board with a fully documented formal agreement proposal that the Board can review and deliberate in public. In the letter, the Board outlines what it expects to see in any proposed land agreement, including:

  • a community benefits agreement;
  • an agreement to follow the Board’s policies in the construction of a new Stargel Stadium, including to utilize local and minority supplies;
  • and a written commitment from FC Cincinnati to pay its fair share of taxes.

Here's another snippet of the letter, which can be read in full at the bottom of this article:

"In the Board's view, FC Cincinnati should be required to pay an amount of property taxes that is consistent with the 1999 agreement framework -- or $2 million annually based on the Club's current estimated value of the new stadium..."

Around 6:30 p.m., FC Cincinnati responded with this:

Tonight FC Cincinnati received a letter from the attorney for Cincinnati Public Schools. As a result, FC Cincinnati did not move ahead with the purchase of needed property for a West End stadium, property that was scheduled to close today.

What does that mean exactly? FOX19 NOW will keep digging for answers, but it currently seems to be another road block that may keep FC Cincinnati from building a soccer stadium in the West End.

The team hopes to decide by March 31 which of the three sites they will build a Major League Soccer stadium on if they are awarded an expansion bid.

If the stadium goes in the West End, the team would build a new $10 million high school stadium for the district so the club could take over the current Stargel Stadium site.

West End residents have raised concerns about gentrification, but FC Cincinnati President and General Manager Jeff Berding said the team will bring a catalyst of opportunity to the area. The latest proposal also claims the soccer club would implement soccer programs at 29 CPS schools that don't offer the sport. Berding has said he plans to host community events such as meetings, movie nights, and high school championship games.

The CPS Board scheduled an emergency meeting Wednesday afternoon and deliberated the letter in an Executive Session. CPS Superintendent Laura Mitchell, in a press briefing after the Board adjourned from its Executive Session, reiterated that Board has not made any decisions, no formal proposal has been received for the Board to deliberate, that no vote on this issue has been scheduled, and that when the Board does receive a formal proposal, it will discuss the proposal in a public session. The Board is committed to openness and transparency, and any vote the Board make take on this issue will be done in an announced public Board meeting.

The CPS Board will meet at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday in a previously scheduled Executive Session. The Board's next regularly scheduled meeting is 11 a.m. on March 21.

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