CINCINNATI -- While announcing that FC Cincinnati will join MLS next year, team GM Jeff Berding said he had no idea how many people showed up to Fountain Square to celebrate until someone showed him a photo.
"It looked like the Reds had just won the World Series," he said, "It was just — the square was full of thousands of people in blue and orange and my heart sort of skipped a beat, and I just thought, 'Oh my goodness, this is really a big deal for this city.'"
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After Tuesday's celebration, Berding was back to work Wednesday. He said construction on the new Stargel Stadium to replace the existing one that's being torn down should start this summer. In the current stadium's place, the team plans to build a new stadium for the professional soccer team to call home.
"That will position us for, before the year's end, having a groundbreaking for the new MLS stadium," he said.
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FC Cincinnati will continue playing at the University of Cincinnati's Nippert Stadium until their new West End stadium is built. They expect to move in by 2021.
There are still people in the West End who are opposed to the future soccer stadium. But Berding said that's where the stadium is going. Earlier this month, the team signed a community benefits agreement with West End leaders.
"I understand that there isn't 100 percent support. Democracy doesn't really allow for 100 percent support," he said. "You'll always have cynics. You'll always have people who have a different point of view, and I respect that. That's what's great about our country, but I was elected to council three different times, never with 100 percent, and they still called me 'council member.' So you don't have to get 100 percent. We will continue to work with those folks, and I'm confident that, in the end, what we do in the West End will be great for the community and great for the city."
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Berding said having an MLS team will put Cincinnati on a global map.
"Yesterday's press conference was broadcast all across Europe and Central- and South America," he said. "Our games in the MLS will be broadcast in over 170 countries. It's the world's game."