FC Cincy cuts subsidy demand to $75m in “infrastructure,” county and city offer $50m instead

A last-minute flurry of negotiations between F.C. Cincinnati and Hamilton County yesterday over subsidies for a new soccer stadium didn’t actually end up resolving anything, but it sure was a flurry:

  • FC Cincinnati president Jeff Berding said the team was no longer asking for $100 million to pay stadium construction costs, and was instead asking for $70-75 million in “infrastructure” costs.
  • Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley said the city would cover the balance from tax increment financing kickbacks if the county would put in about $40 million via $2.8 million a year in existing hotel taxes. “There’s no way for the city to finance it by themselves,” Berding said. “This should be a layup. It’s a layup in that it’s infrastructure and it’s a layup in that it’s a source of funds that no one is currently using and doesn’t raise anyone’s taxes.”
  • The Hamilton County Commission replied with two options: Either $12-15 million from existing parking garage revenues toward building a new garage by the stadium site, or the soccer team could play in the Bengals‘ Paul Brown Stadium.
  • Berding wrote back in a public statement that while “it was good to see the County Commission come to the table,” the team “will not be funding public infrastructure routinely covered by governments” and “the financial data that we transparently shared with the County proves to us that Paul Brown Stadium would not support an MLS team.”

That’s a whole lotta public haggling, with the promise of more to come. (Berding is out of town, but promised on his return to “be back at it working with elected officials” on a stadium plan.) If nothing else, Hamilton County’s hard line has gotten F.C. Cincinnati’s owners to knock off $25 million from their demands, which isn’t nothing. And if I’m calculating right, the combination of TIF money and county garage money would now come to around $50 million, meaning the two sides are just haggling over $25 million, a gap that seems surmountable.

Whether you consider $50-75 million still too much for Cincinnati area taxpayers to spend on a team that already has multiple other stadium options that the team keeps turning down will depend on what you consider government’s responsibility to build “infrastructure” — garages, for one, are not something governments normally build for just anybody, and team execs weren’t specific on what “roads and utilities” would include. It’s still a large chunk of change to throw at a soccer team — as large as Nashville approved for its proposed MLS expansion team — but maybe at least small enough now to be out of the running for Worst Stadium Scam of the year.

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15 comments on “FC Cincy cuts subsidy demand to $75m in “infrastructure,” county and city offer $50m instead

  1. Exactly ! Deadspin went out on a extra long limb to take a shot at a team asking for 75 million in infrastructure , while ignoring the Braves, Vikings & Bucks billions in actual gifted billions.

        1. Even if that’s the case , why not bash Nashville which has received an OK on infrastructure money. is it perhaps jealousy of FCC success.

          1. It’s because Deadspin hasn’t written about Nashville’s stadium. Unless you count my brief mention of it in my article for them, but that’s not really linkworthy material.

  2. I am still annoyed about the Columbus fiasco. Precourt met with Don Garber, as well as the mayor of Columbus and the head of the Columbus Partnership in New York yesterday. It sounds like the league and Precourt have both decided the team is moving and nothing the city of business community will say can change that.

    What I find weird is that Austin and Columbus are similar places. Columbus is a little bigger in terms and city and media market but not by much. They both are state capitals and old state university towns that have reinvented themselves somewhat as hipster havens. What exactly does the league get by moving from Columbus to Austin?


    1. He’s betting there’s greater future growth in Austin. Which there is, but whether are not they will be soccer fans is the risk. He should have had to go through the proper expansion route. By moving to Austin, they are harming Columbus, and San Antonio.

    2. “…in anticipation of being presented an actionable plan and a legitimate offer that would advance efforts to improve Crew SC’s long-term ability to operate and compete in Columbus…”

      When did it become a municipality’s responsibility to convince and ultimately bribe a private business owner to remain in situ rather than move?

      Why should anyone in Columbus care whether the business man chooses to move his business or not?

      Since Columbus residents have supported the club well, this is not a matter of the team “needing” a subsidy to survive (in which case a “save our club” campaign should have been organized), it is simply a matter of the owner wanting to be somewhere other than Columbus and not wanting to pay an expansion fee to get there.

      That is purely a league/owner matter to resolve. I hope the other owners insist on a hefty relocation fee, and the city of Columbus simply moves on. It’s Precourt SV that will have to pay the carrying costs of an empty stadium, not the city. In fact, if he does bankrupt the property owning sports venture, perhaps the city can seize the stadium for unpaid fees and taxes in the long run (if it wants it, that is).

      1. The nice thing about soccer is that it shouldn’t be long before Columbus is in line for a new expansion franchise, anyway. Or they can just start a USL team and then either try to prove their drawing power (again), or hope for promotion/relegation to take hold.

        1. Does the USL (or ever teetering NASL) allow community ownership?

          As with the MiLB reference a while ago, I don’t see why for minor league sports a local agency isn’t created to apply for and run the franchise, starting with the hiring of a proper business manager (not a volunteer board of people who know nothing about business, sports or finance but “mean well” and like publicly funded lunch meetings).

          In most cases, even if the public agency that operates the franchise loses $1m a year, it would still be cheaper than the infrastructure & upgrade demands even lower level leagues try to impose on smallish cities who really want to be “big”.

          1. Brewdog brewery claims they are willing to buy Crew and sell 49% to the fans. However they’re out of Scotland.

  3. Excellent. Those July/August home games in Austin will be big sellers I’m sure. Especially the 1pm local starts.

  4. If you read up on the history of the Crew, Lamar Hunt, city & county, Nationwide insurance & their beloved Bluejackets you can draw your own conclusions. Fact is Precourt being a smart man & knowing the frustration Mr Hunt endured, had a plan B. The guy has made a promise not to set foot in Columbus again ! Fact is Nobody except for Mr Fisher & the business organization he represent along with Crew fans give a damn. The big business entities in Columbus have never gotten behind the Crew. The city & county pretend to make an effort. Even if Austin doesn’t come up with a desirable location you have two cities providing great locations but with cheap ownership groups. St. Louis & Charlotte. Also Phoenix with a location but poor ownership group.

  5. “Also Phoenix with a location but poor ownership group.”

    You could use that comment for any of the pro sports endeavors in Phoenix.

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