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CPS Board Promises Transparency With FC Cincy On Any Partnership

Bill Rinehart
Cincinnati Public School board members discuss a partnership with FC Cincinnati.

Updated at 5:42 p.m. 

Taft High School alumni and West End residents told Cincinnati Public School board members they are concerned about the possibility of a soccer stadium in the neighborhood. FC Cincinnati is looking for a location for a facility as part of its bid for a Major League Soccer franchise.

WCPO reports Tuesday night the Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority approved an option to sell parcels in the West End to the Club. A team spokesperson said at the CMHA board meeting FC Cincinnati had "no interest in building a stadium on these parcels. The team's interest is to take parcels that have been vacant… and put energy behind getting new homes built here."

The parcels are near Taft High School and Stargel Stadium.

At the board of education meeting Wednesday morning, several people demanded transparency and warned of ill effects on the West End neighborhood.

Edith Thrower with Black Agenda and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference says building a soccer stadium in the West End would be gentrification. "Gentrification consists of affluent people moving into low-income neighborhoods and causing the rents and housing values to increase. It's the displacement of the original residents."

Thrower says everyone seems to know what's going on with a stadium "scheme" in the West End except the neighbors.

President of the Taft Alumni Association, Sterling Rogers Trice says graduates have a lot of pride in their school and don't want to see it or Stargel Stadium torn down. "We want Taft to stay as it is."

Members of the CPS board are promising to be transparent over the issue, but they also point out they haven't seen a formal proposal.

"We don't even know what we're being asked to do. We have lots and lots of rules. We can't just give up property. Whoever thinks we can just turn over property, it doesn't happen like that," says board Vice-President Ericka Copeland-Dansby.

The board did receive a letter from FC Cincinnati stating the team wanted to discuss a "potential partnership" with CPS if the West End was selected as a stadium location.

Board member Mike Moroski says he wants to make sure "that there's not only no adverse effects on kids but that our kids actually get more, if these conversations progress."

Members agreed the board needed to be transparent in any process.

Member Eve Bolton says "I also don't think we should be necessarily creating a list of what we want to see because it begins to lead us to the belief that we've decided that there's something to talk about. We haven't figured out if there's something to really talk about because we don't know what they're asking of us."

The board could invite FC Cincinnati to a forum to hear specific proposals, and have a separate public meeting on those proposals.

FC Cincinnati President Jeff Berding released a statement Wednesday afternoon. He says the site in Oakley, which was identified in December, is still being considered, as is a Newport location. Berding says the the club is still performing due diligence on the Oakley site and talking to the owner of the Newport property.

The statement, Berding says "For the West End, we are exploring whether we can assemble the land needed to allow for a stadium development. In that regard, we have had early conversations with area stakeholders including the West End Community Council, CPS, CMHA and property owners."

He says he plans to meet with the community council on February 13.

"I understand that there are fears that FC Cincinnati’s stadium could negatively impact Taft High School. I wish to put these concerns to rest. While there are several configurations that could work, none of them touch the High School building. We look forward to discussing how FC Cincinnati could support Taft High School directly in new soccer programs, new student internships, new extracurricular fundraising opportunities and other ideas as determined when we meet with CPS and Taft staff, parents and students," Berding says.

The team hopes to hear news on the MLS franchise in February.

Bill Rinehart started his radio career as a disc jockey in 1990. In 1994, he made the jump into journalism and has been reporting and delivering news on the radio in markets including Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska; Sioux City, Iowa; Dayton, Ohio; and most recently as senior correspondent and anchor for Cincinnati’s WLW-AM.