CINCINNATI – Imagine a pro sports team in the West End. New City Council member Jeff Pastor can.
He’s too young to remember the Reds playing at Crosley Field, the charming old ballpark they left in 1970, but he’d loved to share the excitement with his children.
“This will be great for my young children here at Robert A.Taft High School to see a professional sport right in their backyard,” Pastor told WCPO Tuesday about the prospects of FC Cincinnati building a soccer stadium in the neighborhood where he grew up.
The prospects seemed brighter after the Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority confirmed to WCPO’s Amanda Seitz that FC Cincinnati signed an option last week to buy 60 CMHA lots in the West End.
Keith Blake, West End Community Council President, said the long-forgotten West End is starting to make a comeback.
“There are businesses, there are individuals that are actively looking at the option of locating to the West End,” Blake said.
The signs are all around. One promises loft apartments; another promises urban expansion. Deeper Roots Coffee just moved its roasterie to Banks and Colerain.
“I called it Plan B,” Blake laughed.
FC Cincinnati spent much of the run-up to its bid to win a Major League Soccer franchise by promoting a stadium site in Oakley – getting the promise of $52 million in infrastructure spending from the city and county.
However, Cincinnati School Board Member Ryan Messer said he wasn’t surprised to see the letter from FC Cincinnati President Jeff Berding Monday laying the groundwork for a partnership with Cincinnati Public Schools in the West End - home to Taft High School and the adjacent Stargel Stadium.
“Frankly, what I had always been led to believe was that Oakley really wasn't an option and that West End was really the preferred option,” Messer said. “Whether that's really the case, I have no idea, but that's what happens in absence of facts.”
Messer said West End-FC Cincinnati talk is preliminary. Berding said in his letter that Oakley and Newport are still on the table. There's much to be discussed.
“I think everybody loves FCC and what it's done for the city, but let's make sure that goodwill continues through this decision,” he said.
Messer called for more community engagement. So did Cody Gausvik, secretary of the Oakley Community Council.
“We would just like to know, should we be considered. We need to start planning now to allocate resources,” Gausvik said.
Pastor said the $37 million promised by the city can be moved to another neighborhood.
As for FC’s Cincinnati’s other declared option, the Ovation site in Newport - the city manager's said Tuesday that there had been no movement on anything related to FC Cincinnati.
The school board will talk about a soccer stadium at its next meeting next Wednesday.