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'We're losing out': March Madness brings renewed calls for new Cincinnati arena

Co-CEO of FC Cincinnati is pushing elected officials for study on building a new area
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Posted at 11:24 PM, Mar 13, 2023

CINCINNATI — Cities across the country are preparing to host NCAA Tournament games this week, but Cincinnati is not one of them. The city's tourism bureau, elected officials and some business leaders say it's time to build a new arena.

"We're losing out on March Madness. We're losing out on concerts. We're losing out on political conventions," said Jeff Berding, chairman of Visit Cincy.

Even Heritage Bank Center's website agrees with that.

Heritage Bank no longer attracts top-ranked acts and events

The co-CEO of FC Cincinnati is urging stakeholders in the city and county to come together and figure out how they're going to build a brand-new arena in Cincinnati. The Visit Cincy board chairman wants someone or some government entity to conduct a third-party study.

"Where the arena would go and how we're going to pay for it will be the two big questions and then the third would be how to operate it," said Berding.

Berding said it's doubtful that the new arena will be at the current site of Heritage Bank Center. There are a lot of moving parts and the city, Hamilton County and other power players have to come to an agreement. While he didn't commit to where it would be or who is going to pay for it, Berding did say this:

"I've seen projections where this could get built without tax increases, there are certainly models where, think about it, if you sell naming right sand the naming rights revenue instead of going to a team," said Berding.

"Do we probably need a new arena, I would say yes," said Josh Junker, Bridge Forward.

Josh Junker's group Bridge Forward promotes rebuilding neighborhoods after infrastructure projects took away their landscape and identity, and he wants residents to be part of the conversation.

"Do we probably need a new arena? I would say yes," Junker said. "It just seems like they haven't done a lot of community engagement on the issue and that's where I find it problematic."

The city has been down this road before after the owners of Heritage Bank Center, Anschultz Entertainment, pushed for a brand new stadium at the current site. However, they don't want to pay for it and are pushing to sell it back to a public entity like the city or county. This is something Hamilton County Commissioners opposed in 2019, saying the county already owns Paycor Stadium and Great American Ball Park.

Still, it's clear other cities of similar sizes are getting more opportunities thanks to their arenas.

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