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City, county moving forward with concert venue plans at The Banks, despite coronavirus concerns

MEMI's proposed concert venue at The Banks
Posted at 2:43 PM, Apr 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-16 18:16:20-04

CINCINNATI — Plans surrounding the new music venue on Cincinnati's riverfront will move forward despite continued concerns over the coronavirus and its long-term impact on the local economy.

During a Board of Parks Commissioners meeting Thursday morning, Commissioner Kevin Flynn said he worried that now is not the right time to begin construction on a new park extension as part of a concert venue planned for Smale Riverfront Park, the Andrew J. Brady ICON Music Center.

When opened, the year-round music venue will have capacity for up to 8,000 people. The new park facilities surrounding the venue will be financed, in part, using $5.5 million in public funds.

Flynn cited recent projections around the COVID-19 pandemic still surging through the region and the country and worried that, even once the venue is built, it will have to sit empty until the virus is contained.

"I just think this is putting the cart in front of the horse," Flynn said. "There's no question that you can still build it, but that doesn't address the fact that nobody will be able to go to it next year."

Flynn could not convince enough of his colleagues on the board to pump the brakes on the project.

Both the city of Cincinnati and Hamilton County are facing budget deficits as a result of tax revenues lost to the pandemic. Hamilton County Commissioner Stephanie Summerow Dumas said Thursday that this project will not contribute any further to those deficits.

"The monies are already allocated. We just have to approve them, and none of them come out of the general fund for basic services," she said. At Thursday's county commissioners meeting, the board approved a $2.4 million contract to help complete a parking garage that will sit underneath the park extension and the venue.