The West End community and public were invited to what marked the beginning stages of plans to replace the Stargel Stadium at the rear of Taft IT High School with a new MLS stadium Tuesday.
Fans huddled together in the cold as each received a bright orange commemorative shovel with the new FC Cincinnati logo on the blade.
Construction on the stadium will begin March 2019, and will take two years to complete. The stadium will offer up to 26,500 seats.
"We are here today in celebration of the next phase of growth and development in Cincinnati," said Mark Mallory, former Cincinnati mayor and now FC Cincinnati's director of community development.
When the initial stadium announcement was made in February, many council and West End community members received the Stargel plan with apprehension. FC Cincinnati needed council to approve spending $35 million in infrastructure improvements in and around the West End sites before it could move forward. It also needed to establish a community benefits agreement (CBA).
In April, council approved the West End site after a 5-4 vote. The CBA includes FC Cincinnati constructing a new Stargel Stadium located across the street from the MLS stadium, which will be accessible to Cincinnati Public School district programs and community members.
Council members Jeff Pastor and P.G. Sittenfeld, who voted in favor of the stadium deal, were among the crowd.
Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber returned to the Queen City to join FC Cincinnati Managing Owner Carl H. Lindner, III and President and General Manager Jeff Berding, as well as Mayor John Cranley, to speak at the groundbreaking.
"There’s something very, very special happening here in this city," Garber said to the crowd wrapped in orange and blue FC Cincinnati scarfs. He recalled how he first noticed it when he visited Cincinnati one summer to attend the US Open Cup match between FC Cincinnati and the New York Red Bulls at Nippert Stadium.
"Our stadium soccer fans worldwide will see the growth, the excitement, the passion, the enthusiasm, the investment and the diversity," said Berding. "It's all coming together to make this special city even more impressive and a growing power center."
The MLS stadium in the West End will be the 20th soccer stadium within less than 20 years to be constructed in the league.
FC Cincinnati plans to host a topping out ceremony by 2020 to mark the stadium's halfway point.