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Some West Enders still skeptical of FC stadium

Posted at 1:11 AM, May 25, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-25 07:30:16-04

CINCINNATI -- The arrival of FC Cincinnati's $200 million soccer stadium in the West End, once a hotly debated possibility, now seems imminent. That doesn't mean the community members who worried about the impact a high-priced development could have on the traditionally low-income, majority-black neighborhood are any happier about it.

"It's going to be chaos and confusion," longtime resident Earnestine Hill said. "I am just disappointed (and) hurt because that means I am going to have to relocate. Period."

West Enders and other black community figures, including City Council member Jeff Pastor, publicly voiced fears of gentrification when the neighborhood emerged as the preferred stadium site, beating competitors such as Newport, Kentucky, and Oakley. 

In community meetings and public statements, they speculated that the stadium development could drive up nearby property values to the point current residents would be forced from their homes.

"What will the West End look like if we continue to do this kind of development?" resident Brian Garry said Thursday. "There are no people who used to live in Over-the-Rhine currently in Over-the-Rhine."

Some have changed their minds, however. Councilman Pastor tweeted his support for the stadium deal after the passage of a community benefits agreement that will require FC Cincinnati to pay for community groups, a local housing study and a variety of other neighborhood enhancement projects. The team will also become a paying member of a West End business council.

Chuck Libourel, a resident who supports the project, said he believes more attention and investment in the area could encourage more people to visit what he believes is a neglected but beautiful part of town.

Galen Gorden, an FC Cincinnati fan, wants to put his faith in the team's sunny promises.

"I realize change happens, and so we just want to be good neighbors, and we want FC to be good neighbors with us," he said. "I just trust that they are going to do what they said they will."