Council approves funding for Cincinnati's MLS stadium

Council approves funding for Cincinnati's MLS stadium
The Cincinnati City Council has voted to approve a funding plan for a new stadium that will house FC Cincinnati should the team secure a place in Major League Soccer (MLS).

On Monday, council members voted 5-2 in favour of a deal that will see the city invest US$36 million in roads and public infrastructure around the stadium, which would be built in Cincinnati’s Oakley neighbourhood.

Under the deal, which will also see Hamilton County spend US$15 million on a new carpark at the stadium, team owners have said they will pump US$200 million into the development. Around US$19 million of the city’s contribution will come from a hotel tax.

Cincinnati mayor John Cranley described the stadium deal, which is deemed critical to his city’s hopes of landing an MLS expansion franchise, as “a no brainer”.

FC Cincinnati currently play in the second-tier United Soccer League (USL). The team’s president, Jeff Berding, has promised that the new stadium, the construction of which is contingent upon MLS approval, will be 100 per cent privately financed.

FC Cincinnati will be responsible for any cost overruns during construction, as well as assuming the costs of operating and maintaining the stadium. A vote is now slated to take place on Wednesday to give final approval to the funding for nearby streets and parking.

“We are confident in our vision of Major League Soccer and what having a franchise in the first division will do for our region,” Berding said in a statement. “Our city has a very unique opportunity to position itself in the global economy and use the passion behind soccer to build upon the renaissance Cincinnati is experiencing.”

He added: “We look forward to continued discussions with policymakers and the public as we solidify plans so we can use FC Cincinnati and our private investment to realise an exciting vision for Greater Cincinnati.”

Cincinnati is among 12 cities currently vying for an MLS franchise, with the league expected to award two slots next month and two at a later date as it pursues commissioner Don Garber’s target of having 28 teams by 2020.

Monday’s approval of Cincinnati’s stadium financing plan follows a similar deal secured in Nashville earlier this month.

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