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Berding: If Oakley doesn't work out, FC Cincinnati is eyeing the West End

Posted at 11:14 PM, Jan 22, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-23 14:12:24-05

CINCINNATI -- While Futbol Club Cincinnati waits to learn whether or not Major League Soccer will invite it to join, club president Jeff Berding is hedging his bets.

In a Monday night letter to Cincinnati Public Schools board president Carolyn Jones, Berding wrote the team could still be interested in constructing its stadium in the West End if its preferred location in Oakley provide non-viable. 

The Oakley spot is dependent on the results of an independent traffic study that would measure whether a stadium would make a positive addition to the neighborhood.

"We do want to keep as many options on the table as possible, given we still need the traffic study results before Oakley could be approved," Berding wrote. "We would welcome, at the appropriate time, a meeting to discuss a potential FCC-CPS partnership in the event we choose to pursue a West End stadium location."

Cincinnati Public Schools' Stargel Stadium sits on the West End. 

Monday was the first time Cincinnati School Board member Mike Moroski heard from FC Cincinnati leadership about a potential "partnership." 

"We had not been contacted by FC Cincinnati; this was the first contact from the organization," Moroski told WCPO reporter Amanda Seitz. "The full board needs to meet about it, until we respond to this letter. It will require a lot of engagement." 

The Cincinnati School Board is scheduled to meet next Wednesday, and will likely take up the issue at its next meeting. 

Berding admitted the team's talks with Major League Soccer had not yet included mention of the West End, but said "the prospective interest had results in some early conversations" and led to questions from stakeholders. 

The construction of an FC Cincinnati stadium has been one of the most persistent perceived barriers to the team's acceptance into Major League soccer. Although some current Major League Soccer teams did not have soccer-specific stadiums when they joined, the league now requires new members to have such a facility.

It's been a hard sell in Cincinnati, where some taxpayers still claim they're smarting from other stadium deals. 

The team promised to pay on its own for the stadium's construction, and City Council in November 2017 committed $37 million to creating infrastructure to support it in Oakley. However, Berding's letter indicated Newport and the West End were still in the running.

Major League Soccer could make its decision about the Orange and Blue at any time. Berding reassured fans in December 2017 that the team's bid was still "very competitive."