Futbol Club Cincinnati fans know how to fill the stands at home soccer games, but they’re not flooding the inboxes of local politicians begging for help to build a new soccer stadium.
Only a few emails from local residents urging Cincinnati City Council and Hamilton County Commissioners to support – or oppose – public funding for the funding a new stadium have trickled in during the last two months.
Talks about whether the city should kick in money for a new $200 million stadium, and to help FC Cincinnati land a spot in Major League Soccer, have heated up in the last month. During a town hall last month, FC Cincinnati General Manager Jeff Berding directed season ticket holders to express their support for a new stadium directly to elected officials.
“I used to be an elected official; I’m a recovering politician,” Berding said during the talk last month. “Elected officials pay attention when they know it’s coming from people … I implore you, have your voices heard. They listen, they really do.”
But commissioners and council members aren’t feeling much pressure from local residents – at least in their inboxes. FC Cincinnati leaders say they want to lock down a deal for the stadium by the end of the year, if not sooner.
Council and the mayor received a total of four emails on the topic in May and June, a WCPO records request reveals. Meanwhile, the three Hamilton County Commissioners have heard from eight local residents through phone calls, letters and emails.
Letters local residents have sent are mixed. Some have pressed council or commissioners to strike a deal in order to keep the stadium – and team – in Ohio.
“As a Hamilton County resident and voter, I am asking you to be open minded about a public/private venture with FC Cincinnati regarding the proposed stadium,” Rick Kuethe wrote in an email to commissioners in June. “I believe that the stadium can be built without the need for new or raised taxes. Please look into all avenues with the club.”
Others, meanwhile, have urged elected leaders to withhold any public dollars for the project.
“I am strongly opposed to the construction of yet another massive, multi-million dollar stadium that does little for the promotion and development of the community,” Jon-Paul P. McCool wrote to City Council in a May email.
City and county politicians often face a mass influx of phone calls and emails when it comes to a controversial topic, such as using sales tax to pay for a renovation of Union Terminal or to build Paul Brown Stadium and Great American Ball Park.
Hamilton County Commissioner Chris Monzel said he received hundreds of emails when the county was considering a sales tax hike to pay for the renovation of Music Hall and Union Terminal.
“It’s very important that we get that feedback,” Monzel, a Republican, said. “I want to make sure that we hear from as many people as possible. I might agree with them, and I might not.”
Local FC Cincinnati fans say they’re working to organize more supporters to call, email and write their local officials to urge a local politicians to hammer out a deal.
A new group, called “Build It Here,” will push for the stadium to stay in the city, and launched social media pages earlier this month . In the coming months, the group plans to organize days to gather to call and write local leaders, said Payne Rankin, a 25-year-old FC Cincinnati fan who also sits on some of the team’s local support groups.
“Myself and a lot of other supporters are dedicated to the idea that FC Cincinnati should be playing in Downtown Cincinnati,” Rankin said. “We want a fair deal. I don’t think anyone wants to see taxpayers ripped off. We want everybody to put their best foot forward, to have a long, lasting deal with Hamilton County and Cincinnati.”
Cincinnati City Councilman David Mann, a Democrat, has heard from hundreds of residents over the years when controversial issues such as banning assault weapons or the city’s collaborative policing agreement arise.
Mann said he gives more weight to emails and letters that are personalized over generic, form letters that all read the same. But no matter how many calls or letters he gets on an issue, sometimes he – and other elected officials – can’t be swayed to vote differently.
“I was elected to exercise my best judgment,” Mann said. “Sometimes the majority will agree, and sometimes they won't.”