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FC Cincinnati stadium would make Oakley more walkable, GM Jeff Berding says

Would soccer stadium make Oakley walkable again?
Posted at 10:09 PM, Mar 05, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-06 06:52:06-05

A new 21,000-seat soccer stadium could turn Oakley into a walkable, urban oasis, FC Cincinnati General Manager Jeff Berding said Monday.

Berding presented the Oakley Community Council with early findings of a traffic study that examined what type of road and parking changes would be needed for the stadium to fit in the neighborhood. 

Amid the promises, details remained sparse.

FC Cincinnati leaders didn’t reveal how much Oakley's roads would need to be widened or where parking needs to be added. No cost estimates for the work were provided, either. 

The team is looking at the former Cast Fab industrial site near Oakley Station as its potential site.

"Clearly, we have to finalize the traffic impact study and the parking," Berding said. "We need a lot more information before we can move forward, and before we can fully assess where we are."

FC Cincinnati submitted Oakley as a stadium site in its application for a Major League Soccer spot in November. If the club earns that MLS bid, owners are considering three sites -- Oakley, Newport and the West End -- to serve as the home for a new professional soccer stadium.

A new stadium would give Oakley Station -- a development that's been overwhelmed by big box stores, a mega-church and fast food restaurants -- the chance for a redo, Berding said.

"I hope that our stadium is an opportunity to change the suburban mall nature of Oakley Station and to help transform it into what was committed in the first place," Berding told the crowd of roughly 100 Oakley locals. "It wasn't supposed to be big box, and that's what got built."

Club leaders are even considering playing the role of developer at Oakley Station, Berding revealed Monday. The closed Sam's Club is an area ripe for new development if the team builds a new stadium in the neighborhood.

"I have no interest in having a stadium that is just surrounded by concrete," Berding said.

The crowd applauded those suggestions. More than a dozen residents spoke Monday, and many said they supported the stadium project in Oakley.

"This area hasn't transformed in the same way as the rest of Oakley," Dan Krohn, a 28-year resident of the neighborhood, said of Oakley Station. "I can imagine so many things in my mind: Oakley parents walking hand in hand with their kids to soccer matches. Businesses bustling."

Still, others worried about the new traffic problems a stadium might cause.

Game nights will bring 8,500 cars to Oakley, according to the traffic study.

Roads will need to be expanded. The team will pay off-duty police officers to direct traffic on game nights, leaders said.

However, an expensive extension of Edwards Road, which runs through Hyde Park as well as Oakley and dead ends at Interstate 71, will not be required if the stadium is built, Berding said.

"It might not be a necessity, but I think it's important for quality of life," Craig Rozen said of the Edwards Road extension.

In recent weeks, Berding has spent his days at school board and community council meetings in hopes of selling a possible plan to build the professional soccer stadium in the West End.

Monday was Berding's first visit with the Oakley Community Council since November, when the council gave its blessing for the stadium plan.

Cincinnati City Council later approved a $37 million package for the stadium project.

That plan relies on $7.25 million from Oakley's tax increment financing fund -- a pot of property taxes dedicated to making upgrades throughout the neighborhood.

That money can't be used to build a stadium in other neighborhoods. So, if FC Cincinnati settles in the West End, council will need to come up with another $7.25 million to make the project whole.

MLS is expected to announce a decision on FC Cincinnati's bid later this year. Cincinnati is competing with Sacramento and Detroit for the spot.