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Council Delays Vote On Soccer Stadium, Causing Possible Setback For Construction

FC Cincinnati
Construction on FC Cincinnati's new stadium is set to begin in March.

Cincinnati City Council voted to delay a vote on a zone change needed to allow FC Cincinnati stadium to move forward.

That delay could be for a few days or until sometime next week. Council could also give 24-hours notice and call a special session to vote on the issue.

FC Cincinnati said the week-long delay could hold off stadium construction by a month. But council members who support the delay did not seem sympathetic. They argued the team knew the schedule and should have planned accordingly.

"I think we can get to a better place than where we are today," said Council Member P.G. Sittenfeld. "How do I know we can get to a better place? Because we are in a much better place today than we were five days ago, OK?"

The hold is to allow a couple remaining issues concerning the stadium project to be resolved.  They include issues between FCC and the Cincinnati Ballet and the fate of Just Cookin' Catering in the West End.

Mayor John Cranley had urged City Council to vote Wednesday on the zoning change.

"There's nothing in the zoning that changes the rights that the Ballet has under its lease," Cranley said. "The rights that the Ballet enjoys under its lease will not be affected by any vote on the zoning."

FCC is still negotiating with the Cincinnati Ballet on its issues. The team now owns the land where the Ballet has its headquarters and parking, and it has 17 years remaining on the lease for that land.  

"To be clear, FC Cincinnati cannot even enter this property until we have reached an agreement," said attorney Stephen King, with Thompson Hine who's representing the Ballet.

King said in a letter to the mayor and City Council members that the Ballet received the same "good neighbor agreement as Music Hall."

"The Ballet has very different issues than Music Hall," King wrote. "In the interim, we are working to draft our own good neighbor agreement, which would only be signed by us should both parties agree to the Ballet maintaining our exclusive rights and staying put for the next 17 years."

FCC in a letter Tuesday night said it has been working in "good faith" for several months with the Ballet. The team said the Ballet has said they would accept staying in the current location through the remainder of the lease or relocating to another site.

"FC Cincinnati is 100 percent committed to honoring the Ballet's lease where they will continue to operate their facility north of Wade Street and have surface parking south of Wade Street," wrote FC Cincinnati President and General Manager Jeff Berding. "If the Ballet wishes to pursue a relocation prior to the expiration of its lease, we are committed to working with them towards an agreement on those financial terms, including possible financial support from FC Cincinnati."

Meanwhile, the team and various arts organizations using Music Hall announced an agreement to work "as good neighbors" on various issues concerning noise, parking and scheduling.

"Specifically, this will include minimizing the stadium's noise impact on Music Hall through stadium design and other sound mitigation measures at Music Hall," a statement from the arts organizations read. "Regarding parking, if FC Cincinnati manages the Town Center Garage on game days starting in March of 2021 per an agreement with the city of Cincinnati, the team has committed to making a substantial amount of parking in that garage available to audience members attending performances at Music Hall when games overlap with performances."

Just Cookin' Catering was leasing space in a building that was sold to FC Cincinnati. Owner Monica Williams is now out of business, and asking the team and the city to help her find a new location in the West End. The team has offered assistance, but not at the level William's says she needs.

Council did approve an ordinance to sell a city-owned parking lot to the team. The team is guaranteeing the city admissions tax revenue and game day parking revenue in exchange for the land. Plus, it will provide parking for police officers who currently use the parking lot and relocate a police department garage.

Jay Hanselman brings more than 10 years experience as a news anchor and reporter to 91.7 WVXU. He came to WVXU from WNKU, where he hosted the local broadcast of All Things Considered. Hanselman has been recognized for his reporting by the Kentucky AP Broadcasters Association, the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and the Ohio AP Broadcasters.