If FC Cincinnati gets a Major League Soccer expansion team, and if everything can be worked out with neighbors, the team could build its new home where Stargel Stadium currently sits in the West End. The team would, in exchange, build Cincinnati Public Schools a new stadium.
Club President and General Manager Jeff Berding presented the team's plans to the board of education, Monday night. He says a stadium built in the West End would not touch Taft High School and would not displace current residents.
"Our plans have some very specific requirements," Berding says.
"A site plan involving the high school stadium, the existing location, if we choose to move in this direction, if it would need to replace the existing Stargel Stadium it would need a bigger improved Stargel Stadium so that current activities are not impacted," Berding says, proposing a possible land exchange.
Berding suggests building a replacement stadium along Ezzard Charles between John and Cutter streets. Currently, Stargel Stadium is north of Ezzard Charles between John and Central Avenue.
He did not have a lot of details about the new facility for FC Cincinnati because it hinges first on getting the MLS expansion.
"Nothing would happen to the existing Stargel Stadium until a new Stargel Stadium was open. So, there would be no displacement. There'd be no loss of activities. There'd be no loss of facilities. Once the new one is open, then we'd move to the existing site, if we get there," he says.
Berding says the team anticipates to "have everything we need to proceed on a stadium site" by the end of March. He says work, including a traffic study and community engagement, is still underway in Oakley. That neighborhood was identified in December as a potential home for the team.
He says the team is still considering Oakley, as well as a site in Newport. "If we're awarded an MLS franchise, FC Cincinnati will not make the stadium decision alone. The site must not only be best for FC Cincinnati, but must be a positive addition to the community, welcomed by neighbors and our elected officials."
Berding also pledged to work with community groups if a stadium is built in the West End.
Nick Johnson coaches the West End Little Senators youth athletic club. They use Stargel Stadium for games.
"No one ever came down to give anything to our kids. I've been in this organization for 30 years, no one ever gave anything to our organization. If they're willing to help us in partnership, hear them out. That's all I'm saying."
His comments were met with sounds of disbelief from some in the nearly packed house.
LaShawn Taylor of the West End told the board she's against putting the stadium in the neighborhood.
"That's a residential area. We don't want it," she said. "Tell them to go somewhere else. Cincinnati Gardens is sitting out there big as day. Open that up, renovate it: Soccer. Spring Grove, where the old Kahn's building is, it's just sitting there, all that land and plenty of parking: soccer."
At least twice board members asked Jeff Berding about "making the district whole." Eve Bolton said she had a couple of financial concerns.
"In our vernacular that means tax abatement issues and future tax revenue. The reality for me is I don't want to see a loss of revenue into decades."
Board member Mike Moroski asked if a community benefits agreement could include discussion about tax abatement.
Berding responded "Our commitment is that on every level our partnership would lead to CPS being made whole or improved."
The CPS Board of Education will hold another community meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 21. The public hearing will be at 6 p.m. at Taft IT High School.
Berding plans to meet Tuesday evening with the West End Community Council to discuss the team's plans.