Council/School Board Say No Rushed Decision On FC Cincinnati Stadium

Feb 27, 2018

Updated 7:00 p.m.

A Cincinnati council committee and the Cincinnati Public School (CPS) board say they will not be rushed into making a decision about a proposed FC Cincinnati stadium in the West End.

The two groups that will make a final decision on the stadium location question held a joint meeting Tuesday.

"This collective sentiment, we will not be rushed, there won't be a gun to our head, is incredibly important to maintain when a proposal does come forward," said council member P.G. Sittenfeld.

FC Cincinnati President and General Manager Jeff Berding presented a plan to the school board on Feb. 12 to build its new home where Stargel Stadium currently sits in the West End. The team would, in exchange, build CPS a new stadium along Ezzard Charles between John and Cutter Streets.

The deal is dependent upon FC Cincinnati receiving a Major League Soccer expansion franchise.

Cincinnati School Board President Carolyn Jones said the district has made no decision on the proposed stadium swap, and has taken no votes. She said that's in part because there's been no concrete proposal from FC Cincinnati.

"And I think it behooves each of us, each entity, to maybe develop a set of concerns or questions that we give to him (Jeff Berding), to FC Cincinnati to ask about and have him respond," Jones said. "And I agree with the structured, inclusive process around that."

The school board has been seeking community input on the stadium issue. It accepted public comment at its meeting on Feb. 12 and during a public forum on Feb. 21. It also posted an online survey with four questions. More than 1,700 people participated in that survey.

But Board Vice President Ericka Copeland-Dansby said the board needs to do more engagement.

"It is my intent, and I'm sure my colleagues would agree, for us to continue to figure out how we engage with our community as we move forward," said Copeland-Dansby. "I particularly have a great deal of questions as I'm sure my colleagues around the table do as well."

There was lots of discussion about a city proposal to have FC Cincinnati sign a "community benefits agreement" as part of the project and in return for any city support. That document would make the team commit to doing specific things for the neighborhood.

"That would be something that if the city relied on them and found that they weren't fulfilled, we could go to court. The more specific a promise is, the more simple it is to determine whether it has been completed and if not to seek relief from a court," said council member David Mann.

The school district may also draft its own "benefits agreement" to present to the team. At least some board members want to make sure the district is made whole financially with a new stadium, or not lose out on property tax revenues.

Both council and the school board agree their attorneys need to meet to discuss all the items related to the stadium issue.

The proposal has divided the West End community. Some residents say they're worried about the effect a stadium will have on the neighborhood.

Some questioned the economic benefits promised by the club for the neighborhood, and still others pointed to gentrification as the reason for their opposition.

Berding has said previously if the West End didn't want the stadium, it would be built elsewhere. Sites in Oakley and Newport are also still under consideration.
(WVXU’s Bill Rinehart contributed to this story.)

This story has been edited to correct "community development agreement" to "community benefit agreement."