If PromoWest loses bid for concert venue at The Banks, it may partner with FC Cincinnati in West End

Posted at 5:05 PM, May 01, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-01 20:28:31-04

PromoWest might partner with FC Cincinnati to construct a concert venue in the West End, near the proposed major league soccer stadium.

That could happen if PromoWest is shut out of building a proposed indoor and outdoor facility on Cincinnati’s riverfront at The Banks, Mayor John Cranley warned in a letter Tuesday afternoon.

WCPO obtained a copy of the letter, which was sent to the Joint Banks Steering Committee – a powerful group of Cincinnati business owners that guides decision-making on the riverfront development.

The committee will meet in public Wednesday morning to discuss bids from three developers who have promised to build a new concert facility at The Banks, which is publicly owned land.

For the second time in a week, Cranley threw support behind PromoWest’s $15 million venue proposal – because he says it’s the only developer who will build an indoor and outdoor venue without asking for taxpayer money.

“I believe that PromoWest is committed to building a Cincinnati site regardless of whether they are chosen for the Banks location,” Cranley wrote.

Cranley said PromoWest could work to bring a concert venue to the West End with FC Cincinnati and the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation – a real estate development nonprofit known as 3CDC.

"There is a relationship between PromoWest and FCC," Cranley said. He added that PromoWest had developed conceptual plans for a concert venue at the Oakley site with FC Cincinnati.

The Banks Music Venue Letter by WCPO Web Team on Scribd

PromoWest CEO Scott Steinecker declined comment Tuesday. But in an interview with WCPO last week, Stienecker said, “If we don’t get the bid, we are considering two other sites in Cincinnati.”

3CDC CEO Steve Leeper, who sits on the Joint Banks Steering Committee, has recused himself from voting on the concert venue development because he's "had broad discussions" about a possible concert venue in Over-the-Rhine, according to a spokesman.

A spokeswoman for FC Cincinnati said the team is "solely focused on securing a MLS franchise award and nothing more." 

The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra has offered to build a $19.25 million indoor concert venue, and LiveNation proposed a $66 million project.

Cranley told WCPO last week that LiveNation could seek as much as $37 million in public funds for the project. He also pointed out in the letter sent to the committee that PromoWest plans to pay property taxes on the concert venue, while Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, which is a nonprofit and exempt from paying taxes, will not.  

It’s unclear where the Joint Banks Steering Committee stands on this issue.

Wednesday will be just the third time the committee has met publicly in more than two years. And it comes one week after WCPO discovered the group had held several secret meetings over the last month to discuss the future of The Banks, a project that taxpayers own and have spent more than $135 million to build.

While the committee will make a recommendation on a concert venue proposal, Hamilton County Commissioners and Cincinnati City Council will have the final say.

Hamilton County Commissioner Denise Driehaus told WCPO on Tuesday she supports a venue that features outdoor concerts – and hopes the city and county can work together quickly to make a final decision based on the Joint Banks Steering Committee’s recommendation.

“I’m anxious to nail it down and start moving forward,” Driehaus said. “I think there will be great benefits. The retailers have been screaming for something.”

Some Cincinnati City Council members already have strong opinions about what sort of concert venue The Banks needs.

Councilman David Mann said The Banks needs an outdoor concert component.

“It seems to me it’s the ideal venue for an outdoor venue, not for an inside only — that just doesn’t make sense to me,” Mann said. “Why would you waste the wonderful space?"

Mann pointed to success of last weekend's National Homecoming -- an outdoor music festival at Smale Riverfront Park -- that people are "hungry" for outdoor concerts at The Banks.

“By some measures The Banks is a pretty dull area, except when there’s a ball game going on. Anything to transform that would be great,” Mann said.

Councilman Chris Seelbach said last week he also agrees with Cranley.

“I agree with Mayor @JohnCranley, if we're gonna build a music venue at The Banks, it makes absolutely no sense if it's all indoors. Either take advantage of the location and view or build it in another neighborhood," Seelbach said on Twitter.

Yet Councilman Greg Landsman said he'll need to hear more from residents before he takes a stance on the issue.

“I suspect residents would prefer the indoor venue but it’s important to know where they stand, and hopefully they’ll be involved in the decision making process,” Landsman said.