Pretending that Cincinnati's newly minted Major League Soccer team, FC Cincinnati, isn't extremely popular around town is ludicrous, but FC Cincinnati pretending like they're not buying up land around their West End stadium site and throwing black residents out is just as stupid. Enquirer politics columnist Jason Williams:
FC Cincinnati's stop-and-go roller coaster of spin and parsed words needs to be parked for good.
Will we ever get the actual truth from the soccer club about its West End stadium site plans and what the team wants to do near it?
In January 2018, team president Jeff Berding told WCPO-TV: “Let me stress this: We’re not taking anyone’s homes. We’re going to increase home ownership. We’re going to increase the number of people living in a neighborhood. The notion that we’re somehow going to try to buy people’s homes out, move people out of the neighborhood, that’s just false. That's just made up.”
Today, at least 17 residents have been or are being told to get out of their homes.
Oh, FC Cincinnati would say the people being displaced are renters – not homeowners – and none of them live on the actual stadium site. Those folks live in buildings adjacent to the approved stadium site, properties bought by none other than FC Cincinnati.
Excuse me while I regain my balance from all the spin.
Fact: Whether it's the actual stadium site or adjacent land, if FC Cincinnati owns it, then it's all related to the new 26,500-seat venue. The adjacent land might be used for parking or fan plazas or even new condos, but it's all owned by FC Cincinnati and centers on the club making its new home in the West End.
Why can't the team just be upfront about that?
Maybe the team is worried about another public relations hit. Too late.
FC Cincinnati stepped into another mess of its own doing when news broke earlier this month that the team is buying three buildings on Wade Street, a stone's throw from where the north end of the new grass field, er, pitch, will be.
A 99-year-old, bedridden women has been told to move from one of those buildings, feeding a narrative pushed by stadium opponents that the big, bad, billionaire team owners don't care.
I believe Carl Lindner III and his ownership group actually care a lot, and this $250 million private investment in a struggling neighborhood is a good thing for the city. But the lack of transparency, the spin and parsing of words coming from FC Cincinnati's front office is overshadowing the good right now.
Had the team been upfront about actually having to displace residents, most fair-minded and objective people would've understood. It's hard to do any massive development project in an urban-core neighborhood without displacing residents.
FC Cincinnati is a private organization and it's free to make deals with other private businesses, as was the case with FC Cincinnati and the Wade Street building owners. But when you originally tell the public no one will lose their homes to make way for the stadium and then pull a fast one, it can erode credibility. And in this neighborhood, the team needs to build credibility along with its stadium.
And the big problem, and why I can't and won't support FC Cincinnati in any way, is because they lied to black people and then bought their homes out from under them and kicked them out. Jeff Berding and the club figured they didn't have to tell the truth, because who cares about Cincinnati's black neighborhoods, right? Nothing they can do anyway, not this late in the game.
I admit it was far worse 60 years ago when Kenyon-Barr and Queensgate in the heart of West End were razed to the ground and tens of thousands of black folk lost everything to "urban renewal" and Interstate 75, but the sentiment sure hasn't changed.
We'll see what happens but at this point any credibility FC Cincinnati had left with West End residents just evaporated, and it's only going to get worse.