County commissioners: "Paul Brown Stadium is option A" for FC Cincinnati
CINCINNATI (WKRC) - Hamilton County Commissioners announced their support for Cincinnati's bid to Major League Soccer, but it wasn't quite the support that FC Cincinnati officials and fans were hoping to hear.
Commissioners Todd Portune, Denise Driehaus and Chris Monzel say they want Paul Brown Stadium to be the first option for an FC Cincinnati home and they want the club to help make that pitch to the MLS. They say if Paul Brown Stadium is rejected then, and only then, will the county support the proposed Oakley location for a new stadium.
On Tuesday, FC Cincinnati President and General Manager Jeff Berding said the franchise is willing to finance 100% of a new stadium, but still needed county support for infrastructure such as a parking garage and other improvements in the area.
Berding suggested that the county use money from a hotel tax to invest into the infrastructure around a new stadium. Portune said Wednesday that will not work. Portune says he wants the chance to make the case for Paul Brown Stadium to MLS.
Portune did say that if FC Cincinnati and the MLS were to refuse the Paul Brown Stadium option, they would use county parking funds to help build a 1,000-seat parking garage in the Oakley location. Money for that--about $15 million-- would come from parking revenues, not tax dollars.
It's an alternative. It's a plan B," Portune said.
The county already has two stadiums. We don't need to own anymore stadiums. We shouldn't be in the stadium business, but we are," Commissioner Monzel said. "Because of that we should utilize those assets anytime we can.
You can watch the entire announcement from the Hamilton County Commissioners RIGHT HERE.
Jeff Berding and FC Cincinnati released a statement after the county commissioners press conference.
As it relates to the need for a soccer specific stadium, the MLS sets its requirements in the best interest of the League. Respectively, they know the business of soccer and the League the best. The financial data that we transparently shared with the County proves that Paul Brown Stadium would not support an MLS team, and any suggestion to the contrary is wrong. Therefore, Paul Brown Stadium simply does not work and does not result in a winning bid. It means a losing bid.
The MLS has said it will announce its next two expansion teams on December 14 and that it prefers expansion teams to have their own soccer-specific stadiums. FC Cincinnati ha said it will spend $200 million to build such a stadium in Oakley, but it needs $75 million in public funding for infrastructure, including roads, parking and utilities.
Cincinnati is thought to be one of three cities as finalists for two expansion teams. Nashville and Sacramento are the other two thought to be front-runners for league consideration.
It's not clear if MLS would be willing to bend and accept Paul Brown Stadium. If so, it would be a big turnaround. And a $15 million parking structure is about $60 million short of what the team says it needs for the infrastructure in Oakley, although some of that money would come from the city.
The Cincinnati Bengals released a statement saying, "This matter is between FC Cincinnati and the county. The Bengals have not been involved in any discussions and have no further comment on the matter."
Berding added, "The next step is to talk further with the County officials and Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley to see whether, after today’s initial offer to build a parking garage, we can get there on needed infrastructure."
The club has not officially settled on a location for a proposed new stadium, according to Berding. The West End, Oakley and Newport are all still options.