Cincinnati okays $37m in soccer subsidies after neighborhood council unanimously says no

It looked for a minute there yesterday like F.C. Cincinnati‘s stadium subsidy demand was going to die an ignominious death, after the community council of the Oakley neighborhood where the stadium would go voted unanimously to oppose the deal on the grounds that it would soak up all of the area’s tax-increment financing money and leave nothing for other projects.

That didn’t happen — after a four and a half hour meeting yesterday, the Cincinnati city council voted 5-2 with one abstention and one absence (Wendell Young is still out after September heart surgery) to approve between $27 million and $37 million in public money for the project. But with team owners insisting they need $70-75 million in taxpayer subsidies to make a $200 million stadium happen, that still may not be enough to get the job done. Oh yeah, and also the team may still not want to build in Oakley after all — take it away, Cincinnati Enquirer politics columnist Jason Williams:

[Team president Jeff] Berding opened the door to the possibility that Oakley might not even be where the stadium ends up.

“The mayor and council may work with us to say it might be in a different neighborhood,” he said.

Said Councilman Kevin Flynn: “It may not be in Oakley. It may be somewhere else.”

Okay, then! Williams reports that “City Hall insiders” said $27 million of the city funds will still be available wherever a stadium is built in the city, so the F.C. Cincinnati owners can now shop around for the best deal. Though regardless of where they go, it sounds like the county isn’t interested in filling the team’s self-imposed funding gap, so … MLS is going to have a really interesting time deciding whether this is enough of a new-stadium commitment to hand Cincinnati an expansion franchise, let’s just put it that way.

If the league is just looking for enough cover to put a team in a city that has turned out for lower-division soccer in record levels, maybe this will do it. If, on the other hand, they’re just looking to use the expansion process to extract the most stadium cash from cities, they can pick two other winners next month (Nashville and Sacramento, say), and tell Cincinnati “close, but we’ll need another $25 million by next offseason before you get a cigar.” Three guesses which one my money is on.

14 comments on “Cincinnati okays $37m in soccer subsidies after neighborhood council unanimously says no

  1. Interested to see if MLS can justify putting an expansion team in Cinci (no stadium but good fan base) but not Columbus (successful team leaving town, stadium and fan base already established).

    • It’s pretty much a wash from a population perspective. Columbus has a higher “urban” population, but the metro areas of the two cities are very close to the same (MSA very close, Columbus CSA about 300k larger than Cincinnati’s).

      If they do ‘justify’ this decision, I’m sure it will be down to a $125-150m expansion fee (whether they admit it or not).

      I see no demonstrable case that Cincinnati will support an MLS team better than Columbus did. The reason the present Columbus owner wants out seems to have little to do with the market itself and a lot to do with just him wanting to be in Austin.

      • Just FYI, FC Cincinnati has a greater average attendance playing in the minor leagues at a college football stadium than Columbus does in the majors at a swanky soccer-specific stadium.

        • Also the only corporate support the Crew have been able to secure over the years have been from outside of Columbus. The local corporate support is non-existent. That along with zero government cooperation , low attendance coupled with lowest ticket prices in the league has made his decision easy.

          • Are you saying it is the government’s business to promote soccer? promote a private enterprise in soccer entertainments?

            This seems to be bringing economic mercantilism to a new low. Are all social problems subservient to private interests generally and soccer in particular?

            For the record, overwhelming soccer popularity and large cities that cannot sell soccer tickets at low prices are incompatible notions.

          • Nope, not saying that, using the word cooperation made that clear. However in that specific city and county baseball, golf & hockey are all promoted & subsidized with taxpayers sweat. Yes the Crew have to offer cheap tickets to get people to the park , but still are not asking and receiving operating subsidies to offset losses like the above mentioned promoted sports.

  2. Actually everyone seems to have forgotten the wild card in all this. Miami and the no bid lawsuit. Cincy might take Miami place if that privately funded project gets killed. This would explain Cincinnati urgency in getting a deal done ASAP.

  3. MLS marketing program seems to have borrowed heavily from the Franklin Mint…

    Order now! Strict time limited offer! Absolute limit of 5 coins/plates/flashlights/frying pans/MLS franchises per customer!

    I don’t know whether it’s more disappointing/shameful that the pitch is structured this way or that it finds a home with dimwit councils across the nation…

  4. Ooh, Sacramento is a finalist.

    • On KCRA, this was a big story with the stadium construction, new condos, big league soccer, the whole shebang. Of course they tie into the Golden 1 Center and the new hotel there and how 30,000 people are downtown at night wanting to eat, drink and shop. The cheerleading is never ending

  5. I see this was enough to at least get Cincy to the final four.

    I’m still a bit flabbergasted that the Cincy soccer owners can’t work out a deal with the Bengals. I guess sports Owners are enamored with this “Ballpark Village” idea at the moment. Yet another reason that a Fed interest rate hike can’t come soon enough.

    • Actually the Bengals refuse to even talk about the possibility of the team sharing PBS. Let alone waive their clause to share in all soccer related profits.