Hamilton County commissioners have a counter offer for a soccer stadium. And they have a plan B.
Commission President Todd Portune says the county continues to push the use of Paul Brown Stadium as a permanent home for FC Cincinnati. The team is bidding for one of two Major League Soccer expansion franchises to be announced in December.
Portune wants to sit down with FC Cincinnati and MLS representatives to sell the idea of using Paul Brown Stadium. "We really haven't had that opportunity yet because we haven't been able to articulate fully what it is that we're interested in doing," Portune says.
Portune says if MLS and FC Cincinnati won't accept sharing Paul Brown Stadium, Hamilton County will work with Cincinnati to invest in infrastructure in Oakley. He says that means building a 1,000 space parking garage. Commissioners say the money would come from county parking revenues. They estimate a garage would cost about $15 million.
"We have sufficient revenues being generated by our enterprise fund arising out of parking that will enable us to meet that need," he says.
The owner and management of FC Cincinnati on Tuesday declared the team would finance the stadium, and withdrew previous requests for assistance from Cincinnati and Hamilton County. The team asked Hamilton County commissioners to use revenues from the hotel tax to pay for infrastructure.
The plan was for the team to select a stadium site in Oakley. Portune says everything is dependent upon neighborhood support.
Beyond that, Portune says "We need to nail down commitments relative to jobs that will be generated by this. We need to nail down commitments with respect to return on investment. If we're building a parking garage we need to make sure the taxpayers of Hamilton County are held harmless with respect to any operational expenses from that garage."
Berding is responding to the county's parking garage offer saying the team is aware of the proposal but more conversations are necessary.
"The next step is to talk further with the County officials and Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley to see whether, after [Wednesday's] initial offer to build a parking garage, we can get there on needed infrastructure," Berding says in a statement. "Our owners and FC Cincinnati will fund the stadium but will not be funding public infrastructure routinely covered by governments."
As for the Paul Brown Stadium option, Berding says "The financial data that we transparently shared with the County proves to us that Paul Brown Stadium would not support an MLS team, but we are interested to see how they could have come to a different conclusion."
Read the full FC Cincinnati statement below.
Berding on Tuesday suggested Oakley is enjoying immense growth and the city and county will likely need to pay for infrastructure improvements around any future development anyway.
Commission President Portune says it's his understanding Cincinnati will take care of expanding roads around an Oakley stadium.
— Tana Weingartner (@TanaWeingartner) November 15, 2017