After FC Cincinnati Said No, CPS Board Approves West End Land Swap Anyway

Mar 21, 2018

Updated 4:25 p.m.

Cincinnati Public School board members voted Wednesday to approve a stadium deal with FC Cincinnati in the West End. The vote comes despite the team saying last week it is no longer interested. A team spokeswoman said Wednesday afternoon that statement was still good.

The team wanted to build on the existing Stargel Stadium, in exchange for a new $10 million school facility on Ezzard Charles. The approved resolution also required FC Cincinnati to pay 25 percent of total property taxes on a new soccer stadium. It would allow a third party to make contributions to the payment the team would make in lieu of taxes, on a deferred payment schedule. The original version of the measure did not include the third party option, and set the value of the stadium at $250 million. Now, the district recognizes the stadium value to date has only been an estimate.

Board President Carolyn Jones says the measure represents what the board wanted. "We did not back down from our position about our fair share of taxes," she says. "What we did was revise it to reflect what we really wanted and expected in any kind of agreement."

Jones and several other board members said they were conflicted on which way to vote.

"I understand the money that we can probably get if we decide to go that route, it's going to benefit our kids. I understand that," board member Lannis Timmons says. "But I'm looking at the human side, the people side, that's the thing that's really bothering me with this."

Before the vote, the board heard from about two dozen people who either opposed a soccer stadium in the West End outright or demanded FC Cincinnati pay more to the school district than it had offered.

The club's final promise was to pay $750,000 a year for 10 years and an amount higher than that afterward.

On March 16, the school board rejected that amount and said it would vote. That evening, FC Cincinnati seemed to back out in a statement:

"This was a once in a lifetime development opportunity for a neighborhood that wants and needs new investment, and the jobs and business opportunities that would have come with it. FC Cincinnati regrets that it will be unable to construct a stadium in the West End community and have moved our focus to Oakley and Newport," the statement read. 

Before Wednesday's vote, school board member Mike Moroski said, "We've gone to great lengths to be public about all this. The reason we're voting today, it was always part of the promise that we would ultimately vote. So we are."

FC Cincinnati told WVXU there was no new comment after Wednesday's vote, and that Friday's statement still stood.