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Deadlines Near For Soccer Stadium, Roadway Improvement Projects

Bill Rinehart
FC Cincinnati GM Jeff Berding says he wants a public-private partnership to build a soccer stadium.

A new Western Hills Viaduct, Fort Washington Way decks, and a new soccer stadium have important deadlines approaching. Hamilton County commissioners held the second public hearing Monday to look at the needs and explain the deadlines.

Time is running out for Hamilton County to apply for federal funding to help cover Fort Washington Way. The roadway was constructed so it could be built over. Commissioners are considering applying for a TIGER grant.

Board President Todd Portune says having the decks could help the region land Amazon's second headquarters. "That opportunity for this region is among other things, fully built out over 15 years, could lead to $38 billion of economic return, (and) 50,000 jobs."

The biggest TIGER grant the county could receive would cover much of the cost of one $25 million deck. The decks would create new space for development between Downtown Cincinnati and the Banks. The deadline to apply is October 16. Commissioners could approve an application on Wednesday.

Commissioners are also considering funding sources to build a new Western Hills Viaduct. They have until November 2 to apply for an INFRA grant, which requires a local match. That money might come from a $5 auto licensing fee.

FC Cincinnati supporters are making another push for Hamilton County's assistance to build a soccer specific stadium. General Manager Jeff Berding tells county commissioners the team has committed half of the $200 million price tag to build a facility.

"We are not asking you to use the stadium sales tax," says Berding. "We aren't asking you to levy new taxes on the backs of local taxpayers. We are simply looking to work with Hamilton County and the city of Cincinnati to see if we can develop a plan where this public support is generated by revenues related to the project and our resulting community's growth."

The team says having a financing plan in place will increase its chances of winning a Major League Soccer franchise. Berding tells commissioners FC Cincinnati won't go out business if the major league bid fails.

Portune says while the county is talking about these projects, Cincinnati has some interests and responsibilities with all three.

"Part of what we hear back is that the city's not going to be able to take anything up until after the election. After the election is after the Infra grant is due. After the election is after the TIGER grant is due. And when MLS wants to know, what if anything, this region is going to do pertaining to a soccer facility", according to Portune.

Portune says he's sensitive to the city's financial issues, but council may need to step up sooner rather than later.