FC Cincinnati - MLS Stadium Rendering - October 9, 2018
Meis Architects

FC Cincinnati break ground on "ambitious," "instantly recognizable" stadium

CINCINNATI – Around this time a year ago, FC Cincinnati were making their final presentation to Major League Soccer for consideration to join the league as an expansion club.

On Tuesday, the league’s 24th team celebrated the groundbreaking for its new soccer-specific stadium, which will be ready for play in 2021 in the city’s historic West End community – in time for the opening of FCC’s third MLS season.

It was only May 29 that Cincy were welcomed into MLS, a little more than a month after locking down the West End site. Fast forward to last week, when FCC presented the stadium’s final designs to the league’s Board of Governors in New York City, a project that club president Jeff Berding called “a beacon for the city and community.” 

The stadium will hold 25,500 to 26,000 fans, up from the original plans to start at 21,000 with room to grow. The most noticeable feature will be the use of ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE), a translucent material that, through LED lighting, can make the building glow and change colors. The idea was inspired by Bayern Munich’s Allianz Arena as a way to highlight Cincinnati as a city of innovation, according to architect Dan Meis.

“It will be instantly recognizable – representative of old, new and the future,” Berding said.

Meis said the most important features, though, will be “The Bailey” supporters section with seats coming right up to the pitch, and the fan plaza outside that allows the stadium to provide more than just a gameday experience.

“It’s going to be very FC Cincinnati,” Meis said. “We aren’t doing something that someone is going to say, ‘That’s Cincinnati architecture, but it’s really going to scream this club.’ We’re looking at ways … to evoke the color of the club, whether through the material – which is my preference, to make it really glow orange and come alive. I have always loved Madison Square Garden, where you look at the ceiling and know right away where you are. It has to be a building people identify with.”

Berding visited six MLS stadiums and more than a half-dozen soccer stadiums in Europe over the past few years, and the club “borrowed ideas from each one.” The club also sought input from the local community and supporters before finalizing plans.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber noted the designs and size of the stadium were “very ambitious.” A 26,000-seat facility would be one of the largest soccer-specific stadiums in the league.

“We believe it will be one of the greatest soccer stadiums of its size, not just in our league but in the entire world,” Garber said.