FC Cincinnati: We need $100m in stadium cash because soccer fans use bathrooms differently

With FC Cincinnati Carl Lindner III demanding $100 million in public subsidies for a new soccer stadium, there has naturally enough been speculation about why the team can’t just keep playing at Nippert Stadium, where the team leads the USL in attendance, and it’s not even close (19,678 to second-place Sacramento Republic FC‘s 11,569). On Friday, however, team president Jeff Berding called using Nippert “implausible due to some insurmountable challenges.” Those challenges, according to WCPO-TV?

Entrances are relatively narrow, especially for soccer, where fans tend to march in together en masse.

Concession stands and restrooms are used differently, too, with soccer fans tending to rush to them together after the uninterrupted 45-minute first half.

Okay, so as ridiculous as “restrooms are used differently” sounds, there is some truth to this: You don’t want to go to the restroom or run out for a hot dog during play in soccer, since you might end up missing the one goal of the whole match. So there does tend to be a stampede to the concourses at halftime.

However, 1) it doesn’t appear to be dissuading fans from turning up at Nippert for soccer currently, 2) Nippert just underwent an $85 million renovation to, in part, build new concourses, 3) new stadiums haven’t done much to solve the problem of halftime soccer crowds, and 4) even if more restrooms are needed, surely those could be added for less than $100 million?

These are all important issues that WCPO seems not to have asked about, possibly because the station didn’t talk to anyone other than an FC Cincinnati exec. (And the University of Cincinnati’s athletic director, who just said they haven’t had any discussions yet about extending FC Cincinnati’s lease.) For an important topic like this, you’d think you’d want your reporter to talk to more than one team source, but maybe that’s just me and my old-fashioned notion of journalism where getting things right matters.


20 comments on “FC Cincinnati: We need $100m in stadium cash because soccer fans use bathrooms differently

  1. Local media has done a very poor job reporting on the proposed stadium for FC Cincinnati, mainly due to wanting sensationalist headlines. The truth is, FC Cincinnati would love to stay at Nippert, but the MLS requires all new expansion teams to have a SSS (Soccer Specific Stadium) that is under full control of the team. They have made it very clear that this is non-negotiable. Not sure what kind of website this is, but a 30 sec google search would have told you this. They are not building a new stadium for “better bathrooms”.

    • “The MLS requires all new expansion teams to have a SSS (Soccer Specific Stadium) that is under full control of the team. They have made it very clear that this is non-negotiable.”

      A 30-second Google search would have shown you this is incorrect: NYCFC and Atlanta, to name but two, have recently gotten expansion franchises despite not having soccer-specific stadiums.

      Yes, MLS is trying to demand soccer-only stadiums as a condition of expansion (or, where that fails, a football stadium that’s “controlled” by the soccer team, though that isn’t exactly true in the case of NYCFC). But that’s a demand, not a rule, and it’s one they’ve already shown themselves willing to break if they really like a market. Lindner may be trying to pass the buck to MLS as “hey, they’re making us do this” — which is exactly the role that league commissioners historically like to play — but he’s the one demanding the $100m.

      • I love Nippert, but MLS made it clear it’s a no go. They can do that because there are 11 other cities trying to do the same thing Cincinnati is. If even one of them are willing to build a stadium, Cincinnati gets passed up. Supply and Demand.
        NYCFC is an outlier because MLS is willing to forgo a stadium for additional presence in the massive New York market. Atlanta gets an okay because Arthur Blank owns both the Falcons and Atlanta United, so he still controls the revenue. Ultimately that’s the point – scheduling and revenue control which belong to UC not FCC. FCC Can’t do permanent signage, can’t do premium food, can’t improve seating from bleachers, can’t sell naming rights, can’t expand concourses or add restrooms (literally rely on port a johns on one side of the field), can’t hold events like concerts and tournaments or rent space in the club level for extra money, etc. so they’re losing out on millions and along with ticket sales that’s how these teams make money. Unlike NFL and NBA, MLS doesn’t have a huge TV deal that teams split.

        • Sure, if MLS wants to use expansion teams as a carrot to extract new stadiums from cities, the league can do that, and it clearly is. I’m not sure it makes too much sense from a long-term viability perspective — “cities most willing to cough up stadium dough” are seldom going to correlate well with “cities with most support for pro soccer” — or even as a leverage tactic, given that at the rate they’re going, Cincinnati and every other mid-sized city is going to get an MLS team sooner or later. But it’s a time-honored tactic — same thing the IOC does with Olympic bids, really.

          • Completely agree. I don’t care for the MLS trying to force hands at all. The league should go where the support is because that is where the money will be. Not where some shiny new stadium is. Unfortunately for the sport and the fans this is nothing new.

        • So with these millions they will gain by having control over all these items they should be able to put together a business plan that is viable to build without asking taxpayers to put in $100MM. Are we relying on the argument, “everyone else asks for public money so we should to?”

          • Yeah, that’s always the central point: If new stadiums are needed to provide new revenue streams, then why can’t those pay off the construction costs? And if they’re not enough to pay off the construction costs, then why is it worth building new?

            (The answer: It’s hard to walk into City Hall and ask for a $100 million check just because you want more money. If you say it’s “to make an investment in the city,” though, that sounds a lot better.)

          • That is the point of a TIF. Unlike the Paul Brown Stadium deal (and many others) that screwed tax payers with a sales tax increase; a TIF diverts future property tax increases which is a way of publicly financing a project without putting the burden on the taxpayers. For the record, I’m firmly of the belief that an ownership group worth billions should pay for the stadium, but I would rather see FCC get the bid and the stadium get built than miss out on MLS. I love the USL, but these huge crowds likely won’t be common long term if FCC gets left out. Then the question becomes how long can FCC sustain in the USL? Maybe they’ll do well and prove me wrong or maybe they fold in 10 years. It’s purely speculation at this point.

          • TIFs are nice in theory, less so in practice, since they’re incremental relative to tax revenue that came in previously, not relative to what would have come in otherwise. Even when that works out — Louisville is a scary cautionary tale here — oftentimes you end up cannibalizing tax revenue you could have gotten without the TIF.

        • Diverting future property taxes (even if limited to those generated solely by the new development) is still placing the burden on taxpayers.

          If that weren’t so, anyone building a new home could make the same argument. The land on which their new home (which is really what a stadium and office complex controlled by it’s tenant is) sits presently generates very little revenue. So all increases as a result of the construction of that home can be kicked back to the homeowner to subsidize his/her new house without affecting the taxpayers?

          Certainly not.

          • I am ok with TIFs if the business owners also agree to forgo fire and police coverage and any other services they are not contributing to.

            Then we can raid their palaces and appropriate their golf simulators!

      • What I find to be interesting is that they put out a plan to award two new expansion teams in “the third quarter” of 2017 in order to pressure local governments on stadiums. From what I gather, none of them are having much success in extorting government money. Do they push back their decision? Do they simply go with the options willing to build without tax payer money? Given that every time these things get done without tax payer funding it makes it easier for other governments to reject future proposals, I think it would seem to be more likely they wait.

  2. “…Entrances are relatively narrow, especially for soccer, where fans tend to march in together en masse…”

    Hahahahahahahahahaha. That’s a good one.

    This fellow has clearly never been to a L1/L2 match in England, or many other footballing nations (ok, left a softball out there for someone to knock over the fence… or maybe a couple of softballs depending on how you want to play it)

    Entering many “non premier” league facilities in the UK involves queuing outside the stadium while your friends (and enemies) funnel through a narrow channel that looks exactly like a cattle chute into a slaughterhouse (only less well lit), or the manned border crossings between Israel and Gaza… think turnstiles with multiple arms at different levels arranged so that no matter how big or small you are the metal arms will batter you a bit… all in the name of security… got to hear those metal posts clattering against weapons (and non-club supplied alcohol and snack containers)

    Even top level facilities in many countries now require people to funnel into the common areas through checkpoints one at a time.

    So, no, there is nothing factual about that claim. As reasons to spend public money go, these are really weak.

    • They pretty much described Providence Park in Portland to a T, which is frequently rated as the best place to watch a soccer match in the US.

    • I hear soccer fans utilize the same zonal marking system for relieving themselves my dog uses on his walk to the park.

  3. As I’ve said a few times before, MLS’s definition of “soccer fan culture” is rooted in some alternate reality that I can’t exactly place.

    As John pointed out, many European soccer stadia are actually quite old and uncomfortable, with awful sight lines, horrid concessions, and 19th century bathroom arrangements. While some teams have updated old stadiums or built new from the ground, many remain an experience to “endure” rather than enjoy. I’ve never seen a stadium with concourses that allow fans to “march in together.” (Many teams do have this tradition, but the marching is from the train station or some other landmark to the stadium area–not into the stadium).

    Nippert is a beautiful and classy venue that would easily be in the top 1/3 of stadiums in European leagues. Would suggest that FCC negotiate a lease that allowed them greater access to revenues, or maybe to build a fan shop or whatever. FCC might “miss out on millions” but doesn’t seem to stop people from enjoying the current product–so not sure what the real problem is.

    The city of Chicago is the cautionary tale of what happens when you TIF all sorts of development and shockingly tax revenue needed to pay for services plummets.

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