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Todd Portune says he tried to negotiate for FC Cincinnati to use Paul Brown Stadium

Posted at 12:56 AM, Dec 02, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-02 00:56:25-05

CINCINNATI -- There are still many unanswered questions circling Hamilton County and the City of Cincinnati's decisions to support millions in funding for infrastructure surrounding an FC Cincinnati stadium, which means some of the questions raised prior to those decisions have fallen out of focus.

We still had one for Todd Portune, however: What was the deal with Paul Brown Stadium?

The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners repeatedly suggested that, instead of building a soccer-specific stadium for FC Cincinnati per the requirements of Major League Soccer, the team simply use the existing Paul Brown Stadium to play.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters claimed Nov. 21 the board had made this suggestion despite knowing it was incompatible with the stadium's lease.

"I don't understand why some of the commissioners continue to pursue this dead end," he said. "There is absolutely no chance they are going to play soccer at Paul Brown Stadium. Zero. The lease for PBS is not going to permit this, and neither will Major League Soccer."

According to Portune Friday, he was right about the second part if not the first.

"I contacted (Bengals ownership) immediately, right out of the gate with this," he said. "I personally spoke with Bob Bettinghause with the Cincinnati Bengals."

Portune said the Bengals front offices met and decided not to pursue negotiations with FC Cincinnati at the time. He expected to "circle back around" if MLS agreed to admit FC Cincinnati in December.

However, negotiations with MLS officials revealed that even if the Bengals eventually became amenable to sharing, the league never would. Although some already-inducted MLS teams share their stadiums with others, the expectation for all new recruits is that they have a soccer-specific home with no roommates.

"The final analysis after we made the case to MLS, they just said, ‘Look, there's four cities in this,'" he said. "‘All the others bids are for soccer specific stadiums. If you send us a bid that isn't soccer specific we're not even going to look at it.'"

Portune said he was pleased with the board's decision to leave infrastructure funding to Cincinnati but help by constructing a $15 million, 1,000-space parking garage in Oakley near the stadium site. The garage will be paid for using revenue from other county parking garages.