County commissioners approve $10M in stadium upgrades needed for World Cup bid
CINCINNATI (WXIX) - The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners voted in approval for the estimated $10 million needed to make Paul Brown Stadium ready for the 2026 FIFA World Cup at Thursday’s meeting.
The vote came in at 2-0-1 as Vice President Alicia Reece abstained from the decision.
Reece voiced her concerns, one being that she was afraid Hamilton County was essentially signing off on a “blank check” to FIFA. She also said the time they were given to make a decision was “unacceptable,” referring to the 48 hours since they received FIFA’s 250-page document outlining requirements that need to be met.
Among the requirements are the estimated $10 million in upgrades and modifications to Paul Brown Stadium, where a potential match would be held. The cost of upgrades could reach $40 million, County Administrator Jeff Aluotto said.
One of the changes is to rip up the artificial turf and install natural grass. Aluotto said after the games, it would be up the Bengals if they wanted to keep the natural turf or return to the synthetic playing surface.
It was said during Thursday’s meeting that the county’s sales tax would be the main source of the $10 million.
Commissioner President Stephanie Summerow Dumas, who voted in approval, did say they were not trying to raise any taxes for residents.
“We’re all here to safeguard the money of the taxpayers,” Dumas explained.
On Tuesday, the commissioners received an economic impact study estimating that hosting a World Cup match would bring in around $480 million to the region and $4 million in tax revenue to the county.
Commissioner Denise Driehaus was also one of two who voted to approve the upgrade spending.
She said hosting the 2026 FIFA World Cup is something that won’t come around ever again.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Driehaus. “This is not something we’re going to see again in our careers. There is this impact that you can’t measure. It’s about all the marketing and promotion and good feeling that comes with hosting an event like this.”
The outcome of Thursday’s vote is surely to the approval of several prominent business leaders in Cincinnati.
Prior to the vote, leaders from Procter & Gamble, Ohio National Financial Services, Kroger and FC Cincinnati sent a letter to the commissioners’ board saying they are committed to working together to ensure the best for Cincinnati and its World Cup bid.
FIFA intends to announce the host sites during a news conference in New York on June 16, according to the 2026 Cincy Local Organizing Committee.
Cincinnati is one of 17 US cities vying to be a World Cup Host City. Ten of the 17 will be chosen from the US, while the remaining cities will be in Mexico and Canada. Cincinnati and Kansas City are the only two Midwest cities competing for a slot.
Local officials comprising the organizing committee as well as Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine rolled out the red carpet for FIFA representatives last year.
The US Men’s National Team played the Mexico National Team a month later in a 2022 World Cup qualifier considered a small-scale test run for Cincinnati’s viability.
A World Cup bid for Cincinnati could bring approximately 40,000 jobs to the area, according to a study done by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG), a leading global management consulting firm. The Cincy LOC’s estimation is vastly less, saying they think 3,086 jobs would come to the Tri-State if Cincinnati is chosen to host.
One potential issue with Cincinnati’s bid is the lack of a convention center hotel after the demolition of the much-maligned Millennium last year.
3CDC is spearheading a collaborative city-county effort to redevelop the convention center district including the construction of an 800-room hotel on the 4th Street parking lot south of the convention center.
3CDC Executive Director Steve Leeper told the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners last month he hopes to bid out the project to national hotel brands and developers by the end of the year, with a feasible completion date of end-2025.
The cost is expected to be around $360 million for the hotel alone, with the redevelopment of the convention center adding another $100 million. So far no funding mechanism has been established.
Cincinnati City Council and the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners agreed to appoint 3CDC in oversight of the convention center district redevelopment with the specific intention of expediting a long-delayed process ahead of the World Cup.
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