CINCINNATI – Major League Soccer’s next expansion club are ready to put their stadium plans into action.
Exactly one month after MLS officially invited FC Cincinnati to join the league in 2019, the club announced Friday the partners who will build, finance and manage their new soccer-specific stadium in the West End community, in the city's urban core just blocks from downtown.
Cincy hope to break ground by the end of this year, begin seeing foundations by the second quarter of 2019, celebrate a “topping out” by the end of 2020 and open the facility for play in 2021. FCC will spend their first two MLS seasons at the University of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium, where they currently play in USL.
“We know this group we’ve assembled will exceed our goals and expectations to create a stadium that represents Cincinnati proudly on the world stage,” FCC owner Carl Lindner III said. “The West End is a vibrant, exciting neighborhood. One of the key goals of this project is also to erect a tribute to the West End with respect to its history, its legacy and its future.”
The Machete Group will manage all phases of the stadium and Turner Construction will serve as the lead builder, partnering with Jostin Construction; the project will be financed by US Bank. Turner has roots in Cincinnati dating back to 1903 and is one of the nation’s largest sports builders, with more than 450 stadium projects, including nearly half of all MLS stadiums.
Architect Dan Meis, who designed the NFL Cincinnati Bengals’ Paul Brown Stadium, will continue working with the club on the designs, building off initial plans that were unveiled last June. However, those designs were specifically for the former Newport site that was being considered along the banks of the Ohio River in Kentucky, directly across from downtown Cincinnati, so Meis said he is “starting over.”
"While [the Newport design] was very exciting to us, it became even more exciting when we realized we had a truly urban site that had a great neighborhood history, the history of Over-the-Rhine and West End, and the opportunity of creating a building that I think for MLS will set a new standard,” Meis said.
“MLS has talked about trying to create truly urban buildings and really drawing on that kind of international aspect of the architecture we see around the world, but they really haven't had an opportunity quite like this. This is a site in a neighborhood, and now a fanbase, that I think will truly bring an international flavor to the MLS and I think create an entirely new kind of building and incredibly exciting place to be – an attraction in Cincinnati.”
According to FCC president and GM Jeff Berding, the privately-financed, $200-plus million stadium will seat at least 21,000 fans, but the club is still working with Turner on anticipated costs for the project, so it is uncertain where capacity will land.
“You build what you can afford,” Berding said. “Right now, we are averaging about 25,000 fans, so 21,000 is probably the floor and 30,000 is probably the ceiling. There’s also value in scarcity, so you don’t want to build too big. We’re working with Turner on the costs of the project, and then we’ll see where we end up.”