West End in play for FC Cincinnati stadium
WEST END, Ohio (WKRC) - With a Major League Soccer bid hanging in the balance, is the West End becoming the site for a stadium rather than Oakley?
FC Cincinnati's $52 million infrastructure package from the city and county was based on a new stadium in Oakley, but there is flexibility.
FC Cincinnati now has an option to buy some vacant land on Ezzard Charles Drive from the Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority, and some other empty parcels along some other nearby streets.
It's not that Oakley is out, but as they say in soccer, the match between the two communities is currently a draw.
FC Cincinnati wants to move up from the minors and out of Nippert Stadium at the University of Cincinnati to its own soccer-specific facility.
The focus was on an old industrial site in Oakley, but now the club is perhaps hedging its bets and bringing the West End into play again.
Neighborhood reaction is mixed.
“That would be great. It's going to be a multicultural juggernaut. Black, white, brown, all get together here and just have fun. It's a world-renowned sport, so it will be great,” said Caesar Jackson, a worker at Urban Styles Barber & Salon on Linn Street.
“I think it would be good positive for us… I think it would increase traffic and bring more interest to the downtown area,” said Oman Hasan of Metro PCS on Linn Street.
But what if West End residents are forced to move? The housing authority says they are not aware of anyone who would be displaced, but there are occupied buildings near the vacant sites. Would they have to go?
“And if the stadium was there I’m afraid I might lose a lot of my customers and possibly maybe lose my business,” said Gina Poll, of Little Tree House Day Care on Linn Street.
In a letter to the school board, which also owns West End property like Taft High School and a small football stadium, FC Cincinnati President Jeff Berding asks for cooperation, saying there are multiple locations in the West End which could “generate considerable economic impact.”
Oakley is still in it. Berding says a “traffic study” in that neighborhood could be the determining factor.
As for city council? West end?
“I think it can be done and I think that when we went into this, the plan was always known that Oakley and the West End were both in play. We still have to have a lot of community engagement. I see some of that happening with Cincinnati Public Schools, but we have to expand that to the entire community so we don't run into what we ran into in Oakley,” said Cincinnati Vice-Mayor Christopher Smitherman.
Of course, this is all conditioned on FC Cincinnati getting an MLS expansion franchise.
The league was going to decide by Christmas on two of four finalists, but only awarded one franchise, Nashville.
It is unclear when the next one will be named, from among Cincinnati, Sacramento and Detroit.
FC Cincinnati ownership pledged $200 million for the stadium. Public money would be for infrastructure.
A spokesperson for the Oakley Community Council says that they were always under the impression that Oakley, the West End and even Newport were options and they're aware no decision has been made.