CINCINNATI — While soccer fans enjoy the new TQL Stadium in the West End, there is a pocket of families nearby enduring gun violence.
The community is consistently ranked as high for shootings in Cincinnati. Police records show at least 33 shootings this year. One of the youngest shot is 10 years old.
“You should be able to come outside,” said Nick Johnson, who grew up in the West End. “You should be able to enjoy your front porch or whatever amenities that you have around your neighborhood.”
Johnson is one of about 20 people FC Cincinnati is paying to be what’s called an ambassador.
“Our community needs protected. So, that's why the ambassador program started,” said Johnson.
He said it is like a role model. Well-known and respected community members will walk around the neighborhoods, talking to teenagers about career choices, leading them away from guns.
“I want to help in the worst way. I feel responsible for our actions 20, 30 years ago,” said Johnson. “I feel like we owe it to our community. Let’s be the pioneers in the United States of destroying your community and bringing it back.”
He praised FC Cincinnati for hiring people who live in the West End to work at the stadium.
“In 2018, FCC said it committed $50 million over 30 years to support community priorities and help improve residents’ quality of life in the West End,” said Anne Sesler, FCC spokesperson.
Johnson said since the organization began building, the Port has released properties for citizens to buy. He said he was able to secure a loan to flip vacant lots. Now, he plans to open a restaurant there in the spring. He said he is confident that with ambassadors around, shootings will slow.
FCC full statement below:
TQL Stadium operations and security leaders meet regularly with the Cincinnati Police Department (CPD) to ensure we are working together to improve safety in the area on game days and non-game days.
FCC provides CPD access to its security cameras and, like other professional sports teams and major venues in Cincinnati, hires CPD off-duty officers on game days. CPD manages traffic flow, pedestrian flow and monitors the area for suspicious activity. To manage fan movement, pre-game activities are organized in three locations: Washington Park and two plazas located on stadium property. At the end of a match or event, the stadium closes to discourage fans from loitering.
In 2018, FCC committed $50 million over 30 years to support community priorities and help improve residents’ quality of life in the West End. More recently, in 2020 the FC Cincinnati Foundation:
- Continued soccer programs reaching 2,025 children in-person throughout the year with the Fall Season of West End Pride, in-person programming with schools and recreation centers, and virtual offerings when in-person programming was not possible due to Covid-19.
- With the support of First Financial Foundation, distributed $100,000 in grants to West End organizations and non-profits working in the West End.
- Created a Social Justice Fund from a $250,000 contribution from FCC owners, $100,000 of which directly benefited West End non-profit organizations.
- Donated $15,000 and staff volunteer hours to West End Schools as they served lunches and met the needs of students and families at the start of the COVID-19 closures.
- Contributed $200,000 to The Port for Affordable Housing.
- FC Cincinnati staff participated in St. Vincent de Paul’s Angel Tree Program, which donated over 125 Christmas gifts to West End families.
- Supported the West End neighborhood Christmas Celebration.
- Held regular meetings with the West End Community Coalition.
The Port has also committed support to the West End, naming it a Neighborhood of Focus. The Port works with community partners and residents to foster sustainability, expand economic opportunity and stabilize property values and tax base.