Hamilton County commissioners to decide which multi-million projects will – or won't – get money

This is Hamilton County's $4 billion question
Posted at 3:53 PM, Jul 17, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-18 07:03:59-04

Can Hamilton County taxpayers afford to pay for a new bridge across the Ohio River and a professional soccer stadium in the coming years?

The Hamilton County Commission confronted more than a dozen multi-million dollar projects – from crumbling bridges and aging county buildings to a renovated convention center – that they will either be asked or forced to help fund in coming years.

The cost is staggering: County leaders are grappling with more than $4.5 billion worth of infrastructure, development, transportation and county building needs in the coming years, according to a presentation given Monday. 

And with some projects, such as a new professional soccer stadium for Futbol Club Cincinnati, facing tight deadlines – the team must hammer out a deal by the end of this year – commissioners say now is the time to decide what county taxpayers can or can’t afford pay for.

“Is there a way for us to be able to assist in connection with the issues that seem to be commanding all the public attention right now?” Hamilton County Commission President Todd Portune said Monday.

No solutions or determinations were made during Monday’s meeting.

Hamilton County Commissioner Denise Driehaus said she wants to hold a public forum on the issues in August. The county will also take a look at what cash resources, such as sales tax or federal grants, are available for these projects.

The forum, she said, will be a chance to hear “useful dialogue to have people actually in front of us to talk about what they see as the potential for Hamilton county.”

Commissioners gave a chilly reception to entirely financing any stadium or sports-related facilities.

“I think that’s two too many,” Hamilton County Commissioner Chris Monzel said of the two sports stadiums the county already owns. “I don’t feel it’s a county core function that we should be involved with.”

Here’s a look at the projects the county leaders says they might be asked to help pay for in the coming years: 

Brent Spence Bridge

A rehabilitation and replacement of the bridge is expected to require a mix of a federal, state and local dollars as well as the possibility of tolls.

Cost: $2.7 billion

Duke Energy Convention Center

A renovation to expand the convention center would bring in larger conventions and generate more tourism dollars

Estimated cost: $200 to $230 million

U.S. Bank Arena

A demolition and renovation to replace the current arena would generate as much as $667 million in economic impact, a report released by the commissioners Monday found.

Cost: $342 million


Nippert Stadium

FC Cincinnati

A professional soccer stadium that would help FC Cincinnati land a spot in the MLS franchise. Team owners have already promised to kick in $100 million for the project.
Estimated cost: $200 million 

Sharonville Convention Center

A renovation would help the center land more conventions

Estimated cost: $8 to $10 million

The Banks

More money to fund public infrastructure – such as parking – to complete the riverfront project

Estimated cost: $66 million (anticipated public investment)

Decks over Fort Washington Way

The project would put decks over the roadway, connecting Cincinnati’s downtown to The Banks

Estimated cost: $80 to $100 million

Cincinnati Cold War and Veterans Memorial

The project would create a memorial using the donated USS Cincinnati

Cost: To Be Determined

Reds and Bengals stadiums

No, they haven’t asked for new stadiums – yet – but commissioners say they will continue to pay off debt and for maintenance of the stadiums for years to come. A 2016 WCPO report found the county spends $7.5 million on maintenance for Paul Brown Stadium and an administrative office that oversees both Paul Brown and Great American Ballpark.

Cost: TBD

Western Hills Viaduct

The Western Hills Viaduct.


Rehabilitation of the bridge that connects commuters to Downtown and the city’s West Side.

Cost: $310 million

County Crime Lab

The design and construction of a new coroner’s office and crime lab

Cost: $50 to $60 million

County buildings

Deferred maintenance on county owned facilities, including the courthouse and justice center.

Cost: $100 to $300 million

Site readiness

Hamilton County has at least five sites, including the Cincinnati Gardens, a Rhinegeist beer distribution site in Camp Washington, and a new gateway to the city of Montgomery, that could use redevelopment help.

Cost: $350 million +