West End stadium last option for FC Cincinnati
NEWPORT, Ky. (WKRC) - Despite an offer from Newport that the developer described as "free land”, FC Cincinnati looks like it will build a stadium in the West End, but it is not a done deal.
The Cincinnati Public School Board still needs to approve the details of a land swap and Cincinnati City Council still needs to approve pieces of the funding package, but Newport is officially off the table.
On Monday afternoon, Corporex, which owns the Newport site, sent out a statement saying it is moving forward with the “Ovation Project, a billion-dollar development of townhomes, apartments, condominiums, office buildings, shopping, entertainment and hotels.
FC Cincinnati said last week Oakley and Newport were out. Now the Newport site is officially out, leaving the West End, where there still might be a fight.
After a major investment 12 years ago in the land, legislative work to get a taxing district and delays waiting on the new Route 9, Corporex says it was ready to start building the Ovation last year until approached about a soccer stadium.
In a statement on Monday, Corporex Chairman Bill Butler said: “We decided to be helpful until the MLS made its decision. We offered a development package which, in effect represented free land, because we would have provided TIF financing for approximately $39,000,000 of the actual stadium cost."
Apparently, that wasn't enough. Newport, the only riverfront site, the closest site to Fountain Square, and the only one without vocal opponents, just couldn't work out.
“There was really no opposition in Newport at all. The Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, all of our businesses and West End and East End Newport, residents were all promoting an FC Cincinnati stadium being built in Newport,” said Mike Smith, a fan of FC Cincinnati who lives in Newport.
After bailing on the West End site last month, FC Cincinnati reversed course last week and went all in on the West End. Cincinnati Councilmen PG Sittenfeld and David Mann offered up a West End stadium plan last Friday and assumed they had the five votes to pass it. It's far from a done deal and the councilmember who is considered to be vote number five says he was blindsided.
“It's just simply… I didn't know what was going on and as a supporter of FC Cincinnati here in the West End I didn't have a clue what the deal was. As I said, I'm weighing all facts and information that has yet to hit my desk so I want to be as supportive as possible and in order to do that we have to have transparency,” said Cincinnati Councilman Jeff Pastor.
Pastor grew up in the West End and supports a stadium there if it works for the neighborhood.
“As an FC Cincinnati fan, I don't care if it's in Newport or the West End. If you're a true FC Cincinnati fan you will follow the team wherever they decide to build the stadium,’ said Mike Smith.
Newport City Manager Tom Fromme said on Monday that he wishes FC Cincinnati the best. Corporex also wishes the team well.
Brent Cooper of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce says they hope the team gets the MLS bid and whatever makes them the most successful they are all for.
The Newport fans are just disappointed it won't be in walking distance.
The Cincinnati Public School board is expected to vote Tuesday on the key piece of the puzzle: The land swap for the West End property.
Cincinnati City Council is expected to vote next week on the proposal laid out last Friday.
A couple of neighborhood groups plan to protest at the West End location on Tuesday evening.