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To become a World Cup host, Paul Brown Stadium needs $10M in work, per FIFA requirements

FIFA world cup cincinnati
Posted at 6:10 PM, May 31, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-31 18:25:43-04

CINCINNATI — In two weeks FIFA will announce its host cities for the 2026 World Cup, but before Cincinnati can find out if it’s selected Hamilton County must agree to meet several FIFA requirements and upgrades to Paul Brown Stadium.

The most substantial upgrades deal with the field.

The Hamilton County Commission must agree to put in a new field, or pitch. That would include a new natural pitch, as well as a new drainage and irrigation system. The estimated cost is $4 million and the replacement must be done by summer of 2025.

The field must also be expanded, per FIFA's requirements. In order to do that, field corners would need to be removed, as well as roughly 1800 seats. The cost for that work is roughly $6 million.

“We got to tear up Paul Brown Stadium and I’m concerned about that,” said Alicia Reece, Hamilton County commissioner.

Reece is also concerned about FIFA’s right to change its requirements at any point.

“Once you sign this contractual agreement, they can make changes and we are obligated. I want to be able to be supportive, but I don’t want the tax payers to get screwed,” she said.

Supporters of the World Cup have said that hosting it will bring a big economic boom to Cincinnati; a UC economic study estimates a $450 million economic impact from non-local tourists, as well as the creation of 3,000 jobs.

Stadium experts still warn residents should be skeptical of the numbers.

“It's going to be the same argument, ‘well this would give Cincinnati a global face,’” said Rick Eckstein, a sociology professor at Villanova University. Eckstein has studied the economics of stadiums for years.

“There’s literature out there how the Olympics, the World Cups, the Super Bowls, big mega events like this do not generate any kind of economic benefit for the host city. Usually they take a real shellacking on it,” he said.

Stephanie Summerow Dumas, Hamilton County commission president, said the commission needs to decide how much they are we willing to pay.

Commissioners said they’d like to see some type of language or financial limit in the FIFA contract explaining what the county is willing to do and not do.

Other requirements FIFA is seeking include upgrades to lighting, wifi, suite seating, concessions and more, some of which is already part of the Paul Brown capital master plan.

Jeff Alutto, county administrator, is currently working on a contract with FIFA and will bring it to the board on Thursday.

FIFA will announce its host cities June 16.

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