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Corporex: We Offered FC Cincinnati Free Land, But Moving On Now

The Ovation site in Newport has been home to noting but a billboard sign promoting its more than 10-year old promise of a $1 billion mixed-use development.

But for the past year, it has been in the mix to land the hoped-for stadium to house FC Cincinnati, the soccer team looking to move up a level to Major League Soccer, a move that requires a new stadium.

Late last week, though, even after occasionally looking like a front-runner, Newport appeared to be scratched from FC Cincinnati's list as the team rekindled its love affair with its home city's West End.

As of now, thanks to a plan pieced together by a pair of Cincinnati city council members, that's where the team's hopes lie.

But FC Cincinnati general manager Jeff Berding said last week that the team was unable to reach a deal with Corporex, which owns the Ovation site.

On Monday, Corporex chairman Bill Butler finally responded.

"We decided to be helpful until the MLS made its decision," Butler said. "We offered a development package, which, in effect, amounted to free land, because we would have provided TIF (tax increment finance district) financing for approximately $39 million of the actual stadium costs components. 

"We were very supportive and helpful but in the end we felt that the original master plan is best for the long-range evolution of Northern Kentucky."

Butler and Berding have a longstanding relationship. In a presentation last year at the Metropolitan Club, just a few floors up from Corproex's corporate headquarters at Covington's RiverCenter towers, Berding talked about how he had spent his summers during college working on the developer's properties. Berding's mother also worked for Butler.

But the Newport deal did not work out.

Now, the ambitious Ovation project, first stalled by the Great Recession, then by the reconstruction and rerouting of Kentucky 9, and then by soccer stadium talk, can move forward, Corporex said in a news release.

"Now we intend to get on with the major infrastructure and working with various residential properties and entertainment opportunities in partnership with developers that complement our core businesses," Butler said.

At the conclusion of its statement, Corporex said that it is pleased that FC Cincinnati was able to find a location for its planned stadium where it "will contribute significantly to the Greater Cincinnati community."

Ovation's original master plan included a vision of townhouses, condos, apartments, office buildings, hotels, entertainment, and retail.

-Michael Monks, editor & publisher