Carolyn Jones calls Tuesday night's vote "bittersweet." The president of the Cincinnati Public School board says they feel like they made the right decision in accepting a deal that will build a soccer-specific stadium in the West End. Jones says board members are also aware of the opposition to the deal.
Cincinnati Public School board members voted six-to-zero to exchange the current Stargel stadium site for a new school stadium, payments in lieu of taxes, and the promise of a community benefits agreement. One board member, Ryan Messer, was absent.
FC Cincinnati promises to spend $13.5 million dollars for a new stadium, including land acquisition and construction. The club will also make a lump sum payment, in lieu of taxes, based on the projected values of a stadium for the first 10 years. After the first 10 years, the club will make an annual payment consistent with CPS's 1999 tax abatement agreement with the city of Cincinnati.
FC Cincinnati wants to build a stadium as it tries to win a Major League Soccer expansion franchise.
The school board's vote comes less than a month after many people thought the club was no longer considering the West End site. On March 16, club President Jeff Berding released a statement saying the team could not accept the district's positions and would look elsewhere.
Jones says she believed the West End site wasn't off the table. "What we did is establish our position. What were we willing to accept? What could get us to a yes? We were prepared to say no, and it would be done," she says. The board ratified the district's position on March 21.
Before the board voted, more than a dozen people spoke during the public comment period of the meeting. The majority were opposed to a stadium in the West End. Many were concerned about the lack of a concrete community benefits agreement.
"If you pass this tonight without a defined community benefits agreement, you're wrong," says Katie Hoffman. "Unless this community benefits agreement absolutely spells out the accountability for FC Cincinnati and the recourse the West End will have if FC falls down, then the only thing that they're looking at is another cadre of false promises."
Jones says the development and approval of a CBA is not the school district's responsibility. "That is a city concern and they have to take their vote and they have to decide how to partner," she says. "One thing the district has committed to is really trying to work with FCC and the city to make sure that they involve the folks that need to be involved."
Jones says she did have some concerns about the lack of a CBA. "But I did hear some things as our administration was talking about it that says to me there's going to be a close relationship in terms of encouraging FCC and the city to work closely on that," she says. "So we're optimistic about that."
Peter Hames of Over-the-Rhine says his neighborhood's concerns and questions were ignored. He also had concerns about the lack of a CBA. "All leverage is lost if you agree to the deal and then say 'and we'll come back to the community benefits agreement,'" he says. "It's like going to a car dealership and saying 'I'll pay the sticker price and here's a check. And now let's negotiate the price.'"
Other opponents plan to rally against the stadium plan Wednesday evening outside Taft High School on Ezzard Charles.