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FC Cincinnati Stadium Closer To Approval, But Issues Remain

FC Cincinnati's 2018 USL season attendance averaged 25,717 fans per game.
Courtesy FC Cincinnati
FC Cincinnati's 2018 USL season attendance averaged 25,717 fans per game.

Updated: 10:02 p.m.

Cincinnati City Council's Economic Growth and Zoning Committee Tuesday approved a zoning change needed for the FC Cincinnati stadium to be built in the West End. But the full council will not vote on the issue until next week.

As part of the zone change, the committee also approved the preliminary design concept for the project.  The city's planning commission, and not council, will give final approval to that plan most likely in March.

The committee's decision came the day after the Cincinnati Arts Association (CAA) and Music Hall's performing resident companies released a preliminary study showing noise from the new stadium will impact performances and rehearsals at Music Hall.

"In essence, the findings show that the noise from a typical game at the planned stadium will be readily audible by the audience and performers, and will interfere with performances and rehearsals in Music Hall's Springer Auditorium," said Van Ackerman, vice president of marketing and communications for the CAA, in an email releasing the study.

The final report is expected next week.

FC Cincinnati officials said they hadn't had time to adequately review the noise study report when testifying to the council committee. But David Spaulding with Turner Construction questioned some of the assumptions.

"So, they're making an assumption that this will be a 105 db (decibel) stadium based upon 26,000 seats at other stadiums," Spaulding said. "What we are building here in Cincinnati is not what the MLS has built; we're MLS 2.0. It's a full bowl, it's got a roof around it. It's not like a high school stadium on steroids. So, to measure the decibels, to say that it would be over right now is making an assumption of what the stadium decibels will be at a 26,000-seat stadium, so you can't really compare."

FC Cincinnati General Manager Jeff Berding said the team has a sound engineer and they'll be reviewing the CAA study. He also said the team has not had any noise complaints during its games that have been, and will continue to be, played at Nippert Stadium on the University of Cincinnati campus, which is in proximity to the school's College-Conservatory of Music (CCM).

In a response issued Tuesday evening, Akustiks, the firm that prepared the CAA/Music Hall report, said that comparing CCM to Music Hall is like "comparing apples and oranges."

Council Member David Mann said he's interested in knowing how City Council can address the concerns of the arts community about noise from the new stadium. He wants to make sure one new development doesn't severely impact current institutions.

"You're saying 'Trust us, we haven't had a problem at UC.' You know I can explain all the differences between UC and Music Hall," Mann said. "I think we want some basis for assurance from the city's perspective is enforceable, that these issues are going to be resolved in a way that's mutually satisfactory."

Mann is concerned this is council's only chance to make sure the issues are addressed. He asked the city's law department about including language in the proposal to make it happen.

"Certainly, this would be the last point in time at which the City Council will set those rules," Haynes said. "But this is not by any means the last point in time in which city processes or city reviews will take into consideration some of the more detailed aspects of a very specific design that would be produced at the final stage."

Berding said some of the issues can be addressed through scheduling, much like the Cincinnati Reds and Bengals communicate to make sure there are not overlapping baseball and football games on the riverfront.

"We're going to have about 20 games, some on Wednesday nights; many on the weekends," Berding said. "Some during performing arts season; some outside performing arts season. We'll work together to ensure that we have as little overlap as possible."

Even if the full City Council approves the zoning change and preliminary stadium design next week, there are other issues beyond the sound concerns from Music Hall.

Those include:

  • Reaching an agreement with the Cincinnati Ballet concerning a parking lot needed for stadium construction. FC Cincinnati now owns the lot, but the ballet has a long-term lease to use it for parking. The two sides are working on a solution for that issue.
  • The team also needs a city-owned parking lot behind the Cincinnati Police Department District One headquarters. The team had wanted to purchase that land for $1, but some council members want $1.6 million for it, which is the appraised value.
  • A City Council majority has now signed a motion to prevent the team from shutting down traffic on Central Parkway on game days. The team had asked for this in discussions with the city.
  • The team and Hamilton County are still negotiating about the size and location of a county-funded parking garage.

The stadium construction schedule is tight, and the foundation for the facility is scheduled to begin in May, so these issues need to be resolved quickly for construction to stay on schedule.


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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.