Oakley is preferred site for new FC Cincinnati stadium, but Newport still in the running

Oakley is preferred site for new FC Cincinnati stadium, but Newport still in the running (WKRC)

CINCINNATI (WKRC) - Cincinnati's soccer team is zeroing in on the goal of a new stadium in an effort to firm up its bid to join Major League Soccer.

The spotlight is now on Oakley.

Club President Jeff Berding says FC Cincinnati hopes to have an option to buy land near Oakley station any day now.

But there should also be a “yellow card”, a warning: It might be Oakley. It might be Newport. Or it might not happen at all.

“This is an exciting opportunity for the city of Cincinnati,” said Berding.

FC Cincinnati has been a major success in the United Soccer League and team owners want to move up to the majors.

But FCC plays at Nippert Stadium, a football stadium at the University of Cincinnati. Major League Soccer requires a “soccer only” stadium.

FC Cincinnati was looking at three sites: A vacant parcel in Newport, a site in the West End and property near the Oakley Station development.

Club President Jeff Berding said on Thursday that Oakley is now the preferred Ohio site, although Newport is still in the running.

Here's the money breakdown: In the original plan, FC Cincy would pay a $150 million MLS franchise fee. The stadium would have 21,000 seats with the team paying half the construction cost, and the public the other half.

In the new plan, the team still pays the franchise fee, the stadium becomes 25,000 seats with the team paying $150 million. The public share remains $100 million.

“I understand this has the word stadium in it, and this community has been somewhat scarred by that word, but this is no more similar to the stadiums on the riverfront than a mouse is to an elephant. Yeah, we are going to build a stadium. We're going to put up $150 million of the $250 million price tag. The Reds and Bengals had about $55 million in private money and $900 million in public money,” said Berding.

Berding took pains to point out the unpopular football and baseball stadium sales tax would not be needed. He said there would be no new taxes on residents.

Public funding options under consideration, but nothing final yet, include a hotel tax, and something called tax increment financing, where revenue generated from development near the soccer stadium would help pay off the project.

A site and funding decision is needed quickly. Major League Soccer is expected to pick two expansion franchises by the middle of next month.

“This is the moment, and we need to seize the moment,” said Berding.

Berding hopes for a site decision by December 1st so the bid can be sent to MLS.

Any public funding option would have to be okayed by either Cincinnati City Council or the Hamilton County Commission, or both.

County Commissioner Todd Portune remains skeptical, saying Paul Brown Stadium should be considered, but Berding says Paul Brown Stadium won't work.

If a new stadium does ever happen, FC Cincinnati would play in Nippert Stadium for two or three more years while the new facility is built.

FC Cincinnati is also selling season tickets for 2018 at a rate blowing away team projections: 10,000 of them so far. That's double the number sold at this time last year, and well on the way to the club's goal of 15,000, which represents at 33 percent increase over last year.

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