Berding promises to meet with West End residents, says stadium wouldn't breach Taft High School

FC Cincinnati issues statement after fears raised

CINCINNATI -- Jeff Berding must have felt his ears ringing.

The FC Cincinnati president and general manager has promised to attend a public meeting in the West End in two weeks to face residents who have been speaking out in public meetings against the soccer club's unspecified plan for their neighborhood the past two days.

Berding also promised that Taft High School would not be negatively impacted by a soccer stadium if FC Cincinnati chooses to build there.

"I look forward to meeting with the West End Community Council Board on Feb. 13 and to other opportunities with West End residents to discuss what could be an exciting future together," Berding said in a statement released by the club Wednesday afternoon.

Berding said building a soccer stadium in the West End would not breach Taft property. He said it could only benefit students there.

"I understand that there are fears that FC Cincinnati’s stadium could negatively impact Taft High School. I wish to put these concerns to rest," Berding said.

"While there are several configurations that could work, none of them touch the High School building.

"We look forward to discussing how FC Cincinnati could support Taft High School directly in new soccer programs, new student internships, new extracurricular fundraising opportunities and other ideas as determined when we meet with CPS and Taft staff, parents and students."

Berding would have gotten an earful if he had attended the meetings of the Cincinnati school board Wednesday or the Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority on Tuesday. Residents will be happy to hear Taft wouldn't be affected, but they must still have a lot of questions.

Berding hasn't revealed those potential stadium configurations or any specifics about bringing residential, commercial and retail into one of the city's poorest, oldest but proudest neighborhoods.

West End residents and others concerned about FC Cincinnati's stadium site search raised fears about the soccer club's intentions this week after it took options on 60 lots in the neighborhood Tuesday. The Cincinnati NAACP demanded more details about the club's plans.

For the most part, Berding's statement just repeated what he has said publicly - that FC Cincinnati is looking for a stadium site and is taking land options where housing can be developed if the team chooses to build in that neighborhood.

He addressed all three options -- West End, Oakley and Newport.

"For the West End, we are exploring whether we can assemble the land needed to allow for a stadium development," Berding said. "In that regard, we have had early conversations with area stakeholders including the West End Community Council, CPS, CMHA and property owners.

"FC Cincinnati’s interest in the CMHA parcels is to support residential development that brings more homes to the neighborhood. Media reports that have stated the FCC’s interest in these parcels is tied to a stadium site are incorrect as we have no interest in building a stadium on the CMHA parcels."

RELATED: We're not taking anyone's homes, Berding says

Berding also addressed the letter he sent to school board president Carolyn Jones suggesting a partnership with Cincinnati Public Schools in the West End.

"FC Cincinnati has already developed partnerships with Cincinnati Public Schools," the statement said. "We will continue to work on programming for introducing soccer, developing healthy lifestyles and supporting academic achievement.

"If our stadium plans require further partnership with CPS, FC Cincinnati will be committed to working together to improve CPS facilities and programs which will make CPS better as a result."

Here's what Berding said about:

OAKLEY: "FCC is undertaking a due diligence process, which includes, among other items, a traffic study and environmental analysis.  These studies take time to conduct and upon completion, we will collectively and collaboratively review the results as part of an ongoing community engagement process where the traffic study will be key."

NEWPORT:  "We continue to have good conversations with the site owner and developer about the Ovation development. At the appropriate time, we would look forward to additional meetings with elected officials, residents and area stakeholders."

In closing, his statement said: 

"The stadium investment offers more than $200 million into a local neighborhood. We want to ensure we move forward where the community is supportive and where we can do the most good where the stadium will be located.

"Finally, if we are blessed to win the MLS award, we will be pro-active with a community engagement process that included residents, stakeholders and elected officials in these neighborhoods."

An announcement from MLS is expected by March.

RELATED: Did school board, housing authority meetings just raise more questions for Berding?

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