CINCINNATI — After years of construction, FC Cincinnati’s new home in the West End opened earlier this month.
But before the first beams were laid or blueprints were drawn for TQL Stadium, two other sites were being considered for the stadium: Oakley and Newport, Kentucky.
When Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber visited Cincinnati for the TQL Stadium ribbon cutting this month, he explained why the league was so determined to put the stadium in the West End.
“The stadium is not just about game day, it's about what it means in the community,” he said. “And here in the West End, this stadium will revitalize the lives of kids scoring a goal, little 5-year-olds, so that the importance of what it could mean is far greater than just what it can do on an MLS soccer Saturday.”
That includes bringing more folks close to Downtown within a short walk of great restaurants in an up-and-coming community.
“We wanted to be part of the rebirth of the city,” Garber said. “This is a city on the rise, we are a league on the rise, and we wanted to be in the neighborhood on the rise. So it was kind of like a triple-fecta.”
Owners and stakeholders kept that in mind to deliver a “perfect” game day experience for Major League Soccer fans, Garber said.
“I remember going to a championship game that they had in the USL. They were playing a game against one of our clubs and seeing 30,000 people at Nippert, and seeing the Bailey just exploding in the stands. I said, boy, if they can do this at the minor leagues, imagine what they could do at the major leagues.”
Garber said FC Cincinnati has set an example on how to build a successful MLS franchise, using the lessons from Cincinnati franchises that came before.
“You know, it's easy to be last, right? Because we can learn by all the experiences of the other leagues, what they did with stadium development, how they moved downtown. Look at the Reds Stadium and the Bengals stadium and Downtown where it's happening, when people walk out of their offices to be able to go have a bite to eat, have a drink and then go to a game.”
For Garber, the fan experience is one of the most important aspects considered while planning FC Cincinnati’s new stadium.
“We want them to believe that this is a stadium they can call their own,” he said. “You know, we use this expression, 'we need to build cathedrals for our clubs.' And in many ways, that's what this will mean for FC Cincinnati fans.”