FC Cincinnati, Hamilton County spar over stadium parking garage location

Just when you thought all the controversies over the new FC Cincinnati soccer stadium were behind us, there's another one: parking for the West End facility. (WKRC)

WEST END, Ohio (WKRC) - Just when you thought all the controversies over the new FC Cincinnati soccer stadium were behind us, there's another one: parking for the West End facility.

Taft High School's Stargel Stadium has already been torn down to make way for the new FC Cincinnati soccer stadium, a project where deadlines have come and gone and where there have been many fits and starts. Now, another fit is starting.

Soccer club president Jeff Berding surprised county commissioners by calling for a signed contract outline within one week for a 1,000-spot, onsite parking garage. Berding said commissioners promised such a $15-million garage late last in 2017 and early in 2018.

"These three separate votes represented a county commitment that has been relied upon by the city of Cincinnati, FC Cincinnati, both our owners and our fans and neighborhood residents in the West End and Over-the-Rhine neighborhoods as a principal part of our efforts to bring Major League Soccer to our community," said Berding.

Hamilton County commissioner and commission president Todd Portune thanked Berding for his comments but said he didn't understand what he was talking about. Portune said the county has been extremely cooperative, particularly when the club's original stadium and garage site was Oakley, where construction would have been easier and cheaper.

Portune indicated the county is willing to provide parking for the West End stadium, but that promise always included the chance of flexibility. The county is now considering two smaller garages with the same total number of spaces, but one garage might be a few blocks away near Findlay Market.

"To suggest that the county is reneging on its commitment, I take great offense at that, as does the county. We have not reneged on anything," Portune said.

"Relying on your three votes and to answer parking needs, as outlined above, FC Cincinnati acquired sufficient land in the stadium site for locating the garage. We invested heavily in this solution so the county had a site-ready parking pad," Berding said.

The new stadium is supposed to open in the spring of 2021, but the parking predicament hasn't been settled yet.

"As we move forward in good faith, we expect the same thing from FC Cincinnati, and honestly, coming here and raising questions in the public's mind about whether we're going to honor our commitment is not in good faith. Alright? It really isn't, Jeff, and you've had your two minutes, and that's it," Portune told Berding.

County commissioners were to meet in a closed-door session to discuss the parking issue. No word yet on what came out of that.

FC Cincinnati is paying for the $200-million-plus stadium. The city is kicking in $35 million for infrastructure and the county $15 million for parking.

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