Another city. Another publicly funded stadium. Another neoliberal Trojan horse. Another public project that will produce private profit, gentrification, and displacement. All done in the name of the beautiful game, soccer.
This time it’s Cincinnati, a city where 53.1 percent of the children live in poverty The City Council has, by a narrow and deeply contentious 5-4 vote, pledged $34.8 million to building a 21,000-seat soccer stadium on the city’s West End for FC Cincinnati.
For those unfamiliar with Cincinnati, the West End is an area of traditionally low-income housing that has in recent years felt the sting of the kinds of development deals and “revitalization projects” that have pushed longtime—primarily black—residents out of their homes. The construction of this soccer stadium could only grease the rails of that process.
Tuesday night saw a very intense two-and-a-half-hour meeting about the deal at the West End Community Council. Its president, Keith Blake, now faces possible impeachment for signing off on the project. People feel that they had no say in a deal that will intimately affect their community and that, In the words of one West End resident, Ernestine Hill, as reported by the Cincinnati Enquirer, “We need to tear this up and start all over again.”
The skepticism and anger over this soccer stadium deal is understandable. As Neil DeMause wrote on his indispensable stadium blog Field of Schemes,
That’s a whole bunch of money from a city that’s already poured even more than that into poorly received stadium deals for the Reds and Bengals—the latter of which famously required selling a public hospital to pay off—and it only took place after team owners arm-twisted a final vote by hashing out a last-second community benefits agreement to provide $100,000 a year for local organizations and provide some community oversight of elements like lighting, parking, and traffic. But at least West End residents got some say in what they’d get out of having their local high school football stadium torn down and rebuilt to make way for an MLS [Major League Soccer] stadium, right?