Cincinnati really does appear to be one of the front-runners for an MLS expansion franchise, based on its record attendance for the minor-league F.C. Cincinnati, but local soccer advocates are worried about the league’s stated rule that any new teams need to bring with them new team-controlled soccer-only stadiums. (Which worrying is exactly the goal of said rule.) So while some people still dream of applying to have an MLS team play at the University of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium, the Hamilton County Commission is wondering, hey, maybe MLS would like the Bengals‘ stadium better?
Commissioners are offering up the stadium, which county taxpayers own, as a solution to keep FC Cincinnati in Ohio — without spending the $100 million from the public the team says it needs to build a $200 million stadium.
“We own a stadium on the riverfront, that from my understanding, soccer can be played at,” Hamilton County Commission Vice President Denise Driehaus said. “I’ve asked the (county) administration to take a hard look at Paul Brown, to pursue it or get it off the table.”
Yes, soccer can be played at Paul Brown Stadium, just as it can be played at Nippert. And sure, maybe MLS will be placated by a non-soccer-specific facility that isn’t owned by the local team if it’s a non-soccer-specific stadium that has nicer cupholders. But since MLS has made pretty clear that it intends to conduct its expansion decision as a stadium arms race — consistent with its greater mission of getting as much short-term cash as possible, because who knows what the future may hold, especially now that any hope of getting an attendance boost from the draw of seeing next year’s U.S. World Cup stars just went out the window — they probably would be just as well off saying, “We’ve got a terrific market, you’ll just have to put up with our oldish stadium if you want us,” and see how that works out. Probably poorly, but when the alternative is spending $100 million you don’t have, it’s worth a shot, anyway.