FC Cincinnati proposes tearing down stadium to build stadium, building stadium to replace stadium that was torn down

The owners of F.C. Cincinnati have finally revealed their plans for a new stadium in the city’s West End — well, a plan, since if this doesn’t work they can still presumably pursue one in Oakley or in Newport, Kentucky — and if you enjoyed the now-rejected Detroit plans for an MLS stadium that involved tearing down a half-built jail and building a new jail elsewhere, you’ll love the Rube Goldbergness of this one, which goes a little something like this:

  • F.C. Cincinnati would tear down Taft High School’s Stargel Stadium, a 3,000-seat stadium that is named for a revered local community activist, and which was only opened 13 years ago.
  • The team would buy land across the street that’s currently planned to hold a community of model homes, and replace Stargel with a new stadium there of the same name.
  • The team would replace the housing with new units on scattered sites it has the option to buy from the Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority. (The team owners paid $100 for the option, but it’s not clear how much they would pay for the actual land.)

The West End is Cincinnati’s traditional African-American neighborhood, and lots of locals are already not thrilled about being used as part of a game of three-card stadium monte, especially given that the neighborhood was largely obliterated once already by urban renewal in the 1950s. There are also questions about how much public money the team would want — they’ve promised to build the replacement high school stadium with private funds, but there are a lot of moving parts here that could involve subsidies — and which parcels will pay property tax.

So, lots still to be determined, and that’s not even counting the fact that there’s still about a $25 million funding gap in F.C. Cincinnati’s initial stadium proposal. Now that the Detroit expansion group has backed down and proposed playing at the Lions‘ stadium instead, and Indy Eleven is playing at the Colts‘ stadium and NYC F.C. and Atlanta United are both playing in NFL (or MLB) facilities, you really have to wonder why the Bengals‘ stadium isn’t being considered as an option — not being considered by anyone but the Hamilton County Commission, that is. I know the trend now is for every sport to have its own stadium, but it’s kind of wasteful and ridiculous, especially when all of Europe is probably pointing and laughing at the U.S. at this point.

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21 comments on “FC Cincinnati proposes tearing down stadium to build stadium, building stadium to replace stadium that was torn down

  1. Not to nitpick, but NYCFC is playing at the new Yankee Stadium, which has not (yet) hosted the NFL. The other MLS team in the metro NY area, the Red Bulls (nee MetroStars) did play at Giants Stadium until 2010.

  2. And don’t forget Nashville SC (USL), which has moved their home opener to the Titans’ Nissan Stadium (from Nashville’s AAA baseball stadium, First Tennessee Park) because they ran out of seats to sell at the baseball grounds. :) Perhaps it’s also a trial run for Nashville’s MLS bid…?

    1. You might be right. They can always scale down the fairgrounds site and put the USL team at that location. As long as the Titans lease doesn’t allow them a portion of all other events profit streams.

  3. The MLS teams playing in NFL stadiums are also owned by the NFL team owner. Paul Brown stadium lease allows the Bengals to control and profit off FCC revenue streams. The county has only itself to blame. Same thing with Yankees and NYCFC, and that doesn’t work well with diamond shaped stadiums at all.

    1. Bingo. Though, you’d think Hamilton County could work something out with the Bengals to allow the soccer team to keep concession, merch, and parking revenue if they share stadium operating expenses… Now that I say that, I wonder if the precise reason that the soccer team doesn’t want a real football stadium is that they don’t think that they can afford operating expenses.

      1. The County tried to get a discussion started directly with the Bengals but the Bengals didn’t reply to their request. In Nashville so far the Titans seem to be more open to hosting soccer games.

        1. BTW, do the Bengals even pay operating, maintenance expenses or even play real football. Looks like a bastardized version of rugby.

          1. The Bengals definitely play real football, as defined by the world’s only free country. Neil might know for sure whether the Bengals pay operating expenses, but my recollection is that their original deal was that the county builds the stadium and pays for upgrades, and the Bengals cover maintenance and other operating expenses.

          2. The father of football, rugby player Walter Camp might disagree. So would the HOF in Canton Ohio. England ?

      2. If they’re going to have to share with gridiron and all the problems that causes with the surface etc, it seems they should stay put in Nippert. That’s a great location and the size is more reasonable.

  4. In fairness, I’m pretty sure that professional sports stadium subsidies are fairly well down the list of reasons other nations/areas of the world are laughing at us.

    It’s not like we haven’t given them plenty of material.

  5. There are many reasons to have a chuckle at the Bengals. Their version of football is definitely not one of them.

    Obviously this stadium deal makes little sense. Especially the part where a new soccer team should get its place of work rent-free because the other kids have one. Pay rent for a living stadium, adjust the seating in the fans’ favor, and all’s good. No need to skip rent to build two stadiums.

    Presumably, owners like the Krafts don’t really have large marginal costs to extend their current concessions contracts for Revs games from their Patriots contracts (or vice versa!). It’s obviously a ridiculous argument to say that soccer teams need a soccer-specific stadium unless they are owned by someone who owns an NFL team. Huh?

    There are plenty of European soccer teams who don’t play in soccer-specific stadia or who play in soccer-specific dumps who would love a place like Paul Brown Stadium. This insane alternate reality that MLS peddles borders on the financially reckless.

    1. Many European clubs share facilities or pay actual rent to the counties/cities who own the facilities and land. What a novel concept! Businesses paying for services!

      Is the insane alternate reality MLS is peddling really any different from what the NHL or NFL is peddling? This does not justify it, of course, but I don’t see what MLS is doing as being any more or less reckless than the other leagues.

      Would Las Vegas have been better or worse off in the long run if they had provided $150m funding for the comparatively meagre return generated by an MLS stadium as opposed to the $1bn plus the total subsidies for the Raiders new stadium?

      I’m sure the alleged spinoffs for an NFL club are greater (whether they meet the wild projections or not), but so are the bills and ongoing expenses that taxpayers will be stuck with.

      1. John,

        I think you are right in that all these leagues propose irresponsible things. What is different in MLS is that these expenditures are justified based on some strange understanding of “soccer fan culture” which in the United States has an oddly snobbish or exclusive air.

        US soccer fans for whatever reason spend much of their time trying to imitate European counterparts on a false sense of the “way it is over there”–my point is that in most cases US soccer fans have it much better. US facilities are well built, clean, easy to access, and safe. Many European facilities are not.

        My other point is that MLS itself acknowledges that this “need” for soccer-specific stadia is very flexible depending on who is writing the check.

        1. Fair points.

          The thing that drives me crazy is that in many of the locations where an “SSS” was a condition of awarding the franchise, MLS appears perfectly happy to have the stadium host 4 down football as well.

          As you say, the minimum requirement appears to be highly mutable.

  6. Ben, Greg Popovich disagrees with your assessment.


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