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.