Cincy soccer team exec: We’ve never asked for subsidies before, so give us $100m as thanks

The owners of the USL’s F.C. Cincinnati are listening to Alexi Lalas and moving ahead with plans for building a new stadium as they prepare to apply for an MLS expansion franchise, and blah blah blah, here are some places they may want to build it, where’s the bit about who’ll pay for it? Here we go:

[FC Cincinnati President Jeff] Berding said FC Cincinnati is committed to spending $250 million of its own money — $150 million for MLS franchise fees and $100 million toward the stadium. Berding wouldn’t say how much public money the club wants, but he did say FC Cincinnati’s contribution would cover more than half of what’s needed to build a stadium. So it figures it could be asking for less than $100 million in public aid.

That’s a little on the vague side, but it does sound like “almost $100 million” is probably in the ballpark. Though as usual, until a funding plan is actually revealed, there’s no way to tell whether that’ll be almost $100 million total, or almost $100 million in direct construction subsidies, plus tax breaks and operating subsidies and what have you.

And either way, that’s a significant chunk of public change for a team that may or may not win an expansion franchise regardless of whether it gets a stadium built. (Or, looked at another way given MLS’s relentless expansion frenzy, might get a franchise eventually even if it played in a hole in the ground. Not that they play in a hole in the ground currently — F.C. Cincinnati currently plays at University of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium, where they outdraw several MLS franchises, either a sign that they have the kind of fan base that can support a new building, or that they don’t need a new building, because the old one is plenty popular already.) A new group called No More Stadium Taxes has been formed to oppose the plan, as well as plans to spend public money on expanding Cincinnati’s arena, with attorney Tim Mara, a veteran of the Bengals stadium subsidy battles, on board.

The best part of this whole story, though, is Berding’s explanation of why team owner Carl Lindner III, son of the late billionaire Reds owner Carl Lindner Jr., deserves public funds to help build his private soccer stadium:

Berding also suggested public investment would be a payback to the Lindner family for its largesse over the years.

“Carl Lindner and his family have brought thousands of jobs to the city for decades and never asked for help,” Berding said.

I suppose that’s technically true of Lindner’s ownership of the Reds, since while he owned the team when Great American Ball Park opened in 2003, the bill that authorized it was passed in 1996, when Marge Schott still had possession of the team. (I’m not going to check into whether Lindner’s multiple Cincinnati-area businesses ever asked for tax breaks or the like, though that’d be a fun exercise for both readers and Cincinnati journalists.) But still, “We’ve always run our business with our own money, how about throwing $100 million our way in appreciation of us never asking for help before” seems a little off somehow — but I guess when you’re a billionaire asking for public funds, you need some kind of excuse, even if it’s just “My family has never screwed you over — yet.”

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10 comments on “Cincy soccer team exec: We’ve never asked for subsidies before, so give us $100m as thanks

  1. ““Carl Lindner and his family have brought thousands of jobs to the city for decades and never asked for help,” Berding said.”

    And we ‘d hate to break that string now, so bye-bye.

  2. The FO expects the stadium to cost $175 million. The Stadium Tax from 1996 brings in $40 million a year. If the team is putting up $100 Million for the stadium (a massive amount by any standard here in the US) that means, in theory, the existing tax would pay off the stadium in two years.

    Keep in mind this 1996 Stadium Tax says the money HAS to be spent on spublid structures like stadiums. It isn’t redirectable to schools or police or hospitals.

    I’m against bailing out billionaires as much as the next guy, but massive projects like this ALWAYS include the city for help. G freaking E just got a sweetheart deal from the city for moving their office to the Banks. It happens. And I don’t think FCC will be asking for all that much in the end.

    1. Except it’s currently being used to pay off bonds for the existing stadiums and pay for operations of the existing stadiums ($3-$5 million already). It’s not free money just sitting around. If it’s diverted to this the money will need to be made up elsewhere for existing costs, which will be hard since the county is running $30 million deficit already (which doesn’t even account for a drop in receipts in a recession).

      Also the language in the tax passage only for the Bengals and Reds. Another team would need it’s own referendum for the money to be directed to them.

      1. Good point. Plus, any mention of Hamilton County’s stadium obligations should require someone mention that the Bengals are still holding out hope for the holographic replay system coming to play any year now. The “has to be spent” on stadiums game has already been played, and the county is already paying dearly for it.

  3. You missed this little nugget from the Cincinnati enquirer article (2nd link):

    “It’s almost unheard of for a sports franchise owner – or ownership group – to pony up anywhere near half the cost to build a new stadium or arena.”

    Maybe he was only referring to Cincinnati stadia. It certainly is a new era for journalism.

    1. I did see that, but there are only so many hours in the day for boggling…

    2. And he could have driven 90 minutes to Columbus, where their MLS stadium was built without taxpayer funds – after taxpayers rejected a stadium tax for them.

  4. It would be insane for MLS and for small MLB markets like Cincinnati, St. Louis, San Diego, etc. to get MLS.

    So naturally, it’s bound to happen.

  5. In mean time here in Chicago , the city of Rosemont will build the 6th public subsidized baseball park in the metro area. 4 of those parks for independent leagues.

  6. My family has screwed a lot of people over so I wouldn’t use that excuse, because the people I’m asking for public cash might be related to some of them. I wouldn’t even bring it up to be honest.

    I just think it’s tacky that all these boring minor sports suddenly have the chutzpah to come looking for the kind of subsidized stadium gravy that really should be reserved for us big boys. Hmphf!

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