FC Cincinnati breaks ground on $250M stadium

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FC Cincinnati breaks ground on $250M stadium: PHOTOS Dec 18, 2018, 6:04pm EST Updated: Dec 18, 2018, 6:48pm EST

Ground has finally been broken – at least in a ceremonial sense – on FC Cincinnati’s $250 million soccer stadium in the West End. The team poised to move up to Major League Soccer as an expansion franchise next season held the groundbreaking ceremony on Tuesday afternoon with several hundred fans in attendance and a host of dignitaries on the stage, including MLS commissioner Don Garber. CORRIE SCHAFFELD | COURIER

“This is the realization of a very big dream,” FC Cincinnati president and general manager Jeff Berding told me after the event. “But there’s a lot of work to do.” FC Cincinnati majority owner Carl Lindner III, co-CEO of insurance giant American Financial Group Inc., said the stadium will be “a spectacular showcase for our community.” “It’s an important milestone to celebrate,” he told me after the event. “Things will be moving quickly now.” Garber said FC Cincinnati’s stadium is “probably the quickest, from beginning to groundbreaking” of any new MLS soccer stadium, of which there have been 20 in the past two decades. FC Cincinnati was still debating stadium locations a year ago and officially announced plans to build a stadium just 18 months ago, in May 2017. Garber credited Berding and Lindner as well as the remarkable fan support for making an MLS franchise possible. He said he first realized what was happening with FC Cincinnati when he attended a U.S. Open Cup match at Nippert Stadium against the New York Red Bulls in 2017. The 33,000 enthusiastic fans opened his eyes. “I turned to the group of people I was with and I said, ‘There’s something very, very special happeningA here in this city and we’ve got to figure out a way that we can bring this team into our league,’” GarberA said. “I can’t wait to be here when this stadium opens. I can’t wait to be here for opening day.” The stadium is scheduled to be completed in time for FC Cincinnati to begin play there at the start ofA the 2021 MLS season, likely in early March. FC Cincinnati will play at Nippert Stadium on the UniversityA of Cincinnati's campus the next two seasons. That’s where it has played for the three seasons of theA team’s existence, breaking United Soccer League attendance records each season.

Dave Spaulding, general manager of Turner Construction Co., said foundation work should begin in March. Turner said last month in development plans filed with the city that it expects work on the steel structure to begin in September. Spaulding said a topping-out ceremony will take place in 2020 and the stadium should be ready for FC Cincinnati to begin play when the MLS season kicks off in March 2021. Berding has a vision of that moment. “In just two short years, what will rise on this site will be seen and experienced around the world,” Berding said. “It will be instantly recognizable and represent Cincinnati on the world stage. “Our West End stadium will be a beacon for the Queen City and our region.” FC Cincinnati was awarded a Major League Soccer expansion franchise in May to begin play next season. FC Cincinnati’s owners, headed by Lindner and Cintas Corp. CEO Scott Farmer, will pay for the new stadium. Current plans call for the city, Hamilton County and the state to pay a combined $54 million for infrastructure improvements, site preparation and parking garages. Steve Watkins Staff Reporter Cincinnati Business Courier

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