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Newport Appears to Drop on List of Possible FC Cincinnati Stadium Sites

The Newport riverfront has been hot - in reality and in speculative deals.

Not only is there a new hotel and a brand new apartment building east of Newport on the Levee, there has been much buzz about the possibility of the long-vacant Ovation site, along the western Ohio riverfront near the Licking River.

Maybe it's the Cincinnati region's brightest shot to land Amazon's much ballyhooed second headquarters (and 50,000 jobs).

And maybe it's the best site for FC Cincinnati's new soccer stadium.

We won't know Amazon's plans for some time, but it looks like a decision on soccer is not far away.

FC Cincinnati president Jeff Berding appears to be leaning towards the Cincinnati neighborhood of Oakley as the popular team's new home. The team has seen rapid success in terms of fan support and media exposure. It currently plays its games at Nippert Stadium at the University of Cincinnati.

But FC Cincinnati wants to join Major League Soccer and is aggressively pursuing a bid, and that plan calls for a new stadium, its own stadium.

The River City News broke the story earlier this year that both Covington and Newport were being looked at as the team explored its options. The news of that possibility excited some fans and disappointed others who wanted to see the stadium stay on the Ohio side of the river. But, Cincinnati and Hamilton County have a difficult recent history with stadiums after both the Cincinnati Reds and Cincinnati Bengals got $900 million in public money for their two new homes along the riverfront.

Northern Kentucky does not have such a history. When Berding expressed his openness to moving south, an architecture firm created a rendering of what a stadium could look like if it were built on the Covington riverfront where the IRS site currently operates but will vacate in 2019. 

Then things got real, when FC Cincinnati released images of a rendering of a possible stadium design - in Newport.

Newport found itself on the team's short list, along with Oakley and Cincinnati's West End.

Now that list appears to be shorter, with the Oakley Community Council giving its blessing to a possible stadium project there, and news that Berding will appear alongside Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley next week to make a stadium-related announcement.

Cincinnati Soccer Talk reports:

CST: Does sending ANY location in the final bid to MLS lock us into that site or is there still flexibility to look at the remaining 2 sites?

(Jeff Berding): Everything is contingent on the MLS bid. If we are blessed to get the bid, we would really begin stadium design process, work with the City on infrastructure needs and throughout the process, work with the Oakley Community Council to ensure the development fits greatly with their neighborhood plan. It is possible that a better stadium plan emerges, but for now, nothing matters but having a workable stadium plan to secure the bid.

CST: You mentioned unveiling a stadium plan with Major Cranley next week. Is that just a financial plan or do you anticipate that it is the plan you will submit to MLS?

JB: Our expectation is to announce a stadium development plan next week with the Mayor, but that is a process we will be working through over next several days. We are not yet able to share further details. The plan will require timely action by local government officials and allow for public discussion and feedback. Clearly, the MLS process concludes in 4-5 weeks, so we need to move now.

WKRC reported this week that Newport is still in the running, however.

That means Newport's dream that FC Cincinnati "kicking on the Licking", a slogan printed on a T-shirt worn by Mayor Jerry Peluso, is not over yet.

-Michael Monks, editor & publisher

Top image: Rendering of possible stadium if it were in Newport (MEIS Architecture/provided)