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How will Nippert change to accommodate soccer?

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Posted at 10:00 AM, Mar 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-09 10:00:07-05

CINCINNATI -- The University of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium is slowly transitioning from a college football stadium to a professional soccer environment.

But how different will it look to the fans when FC Cincinnati officially moves in next month?

Let’s just say this: FCC is making itself right at home, despite being the secondary tenant to Bearcats football.

Fans will see FC Cincinnati signage throughout the stadium, the field won’t at all look like a football field, and the 45,000-seat facility will be tactfully transformed into a cozier atmosphere fitting of well-attended United Soccer League games.

“The University of Cincinnati has been a fantastic partner,” FCC president and general manager Jeff Berding said. “We’ve worked together to ensure the facility is soccer-ready in time for our season.”

FC Cincinnati, aiming to draw 10,000 fans a game, is set to take the pitch at Nippert Stadium for the first time April 5 when it hosts a friendly game against the University of Dayton. The club’s inaugural home USL game follows April 9 against Charlotte, and the season runs through October.

Fans can get an idea what the stadium will look like by checking out the seating chart on the ticketing page of FCCincinnati.com. Just like in the photo, certain sections will be closed off by orange, blue and white-colored tarps featuring the FCC logo “to reduce seating capacity and make the stadium environment more intimate” for games, according to Berding.

Aside from that, the only other noticeable difference for the fans will be the new artificial turf field, which is currently being installed and expected to be complete in time for the season.

The new surface, funded by FCC, is a product from UBU Sports, which also provided the fields at Paul Brown Stadium and Met Life Stadium, home of the New York Giants and Jets. It is scientifically engineered with a 61-ounce monofilament fiber and mixed rubber/sand infill to ensure a fast, firm and safe playing surface, and there will be removable panels to help convert the field from one sport to the other.

The field will be entirely green with no permanent markings to enable maximum versatility for tailoring the surface to both tenants. Pioneer Paints will coordinate the painting of both football and soccer fields, and the lines for one sport will not be visible during play for the other tenant when the seasons overlap.

“The new surface is the first thing fans will see different,” UC director of athletics Mike Bohn said. “We’ll be able to take it from soccer to football without a problem and still serve both our needs and theirs. But beyond that, it’s just some minor changes that most fans won’t even see.”

The Cincinnati Bengals also use Pioneer Paints on their field. Bengals head groundskeeper Darian Daily told AthleticTurf.net when the Bearcats played games at Paul Brown Stadium last year — during Nippert Stadium’s $86 million renovation — removing the team logos took an hour for each one.

UC hosts high school football games in late August, and Bearcats football season begins in September.

Other changes being made to help FCC feel at home at Nippert will be in areas the average fan won’t see.

FCC paid for renovations to the visiting locker room space underneath the north end zone of Nippert Stadium, on the west side, and the club will use the Bearcats’ home game-day locker room area for meeting space and a players’ lounge. The Bearcats’ main locker room with showers is in the Lindner Center.

“We’ve done some enhancements in (the visiting locker room) — a drop ceiling, we’re putting in a new floor and some other modest enhancements,” Berding said. “On the east side … we’re also doing some renovations in that room, and that will be part of the official FC Cincinnati locker room. Certainly as we get into September and the football team is using it on game days, there will be the ability to sort of move our stuff out and have it as is for the football team.”

Berding said renovations are in the “low six figures” but would not elaborate. According to the UBU Sports’ online catalog, the Speed Series M6-M surface costs $4.57 per square foot.

FCC is more concerned about providing its players and fans with what he believes will be the best game-day atmosphere in the USL.

“We have great facilities in Nippert Stadium, and it will be a very exciting environment,” Berding said. “I think the players and the rest of the league will be blown away by how nice it is.”

Bohn said he looks forward to seeing the final product and a chance for the university to further showcase its facilities.

“We’re proud of our city and the partnership with FC Cincinnati and what it pulls together as far as a commitment to the community,” Bohn said. “The ability for soccer to be a focal point in Cincinnati, obviously that’s something that enhances our brand with them being on our campus with our teams, so it’s a win-win.”