COLUMBUS (WCMH) — While Columbus is in the midst of a battle to keep its MLS Soccer team, Cincinnati is trying to gain one. If they do, they want to build a new stadium, and you’re helping to pay for it.
The capital budget is being debated this week at the statehouse, and in it is a provision that takes millions of your state tax dollars to Cincinnati, to build a stadium.
FC Cincinnati is one of the top picks to join Major League Soccer and building a new stadium has been a hot topic in the Southwest Ohio city for some time, but using state tax dollars to build it, is not sitting well with everyone.
Because of its success and popularity, FC Cincinnati has generated national media coverage and is regularly mentioned as an MLS expansion candidate. The team has already zoned in on at least three potential sites for a new stadium.
But who should foot the bill? Ohio lawmakers recently included $4 million dollars in the capital budget to go towards building a new stadium.
“We don’t think that is appropriate,” said Greg Lawson with the Buckeye Institute, a thinktank that tracks government spending. Lawson calls it a pork barrel project that has the entire state paying for something few will benefit from, “This is solely for a sports stadium to be of interest to the folks down there, but I am not sure it is of interest to the folks in Columbus,” Lawson said.
According to Lawson, state tax dollars should go to state needs like freeways, sewers and other infrastructure and hyper-local projects like this one should use local or private dollars,
“It is completely accurate to say that Columbus residents are now paying for the stadium in Cincinnati,” Lawson said.
Lawmakers are the statehouse argue that 5% of the overall budget is community projects like this one, intended to spur economic growth. “These projects are typically brought forward by local legislators and community leaders who feel that certain projects will be important for achieving these goals,” Brad Miller, a GOP House of Representatives spokesman said.
This is also not the first time the state has used state tax dollars for this type of purpose, “It is not unprecedented or unusual for professional sports facilities to receive funding through the capital budget, including $500,000 that was allocated for the Columbus Crew two years ago,” Miller said.
If FC Cincinnati is not awarded an MLS franchise, this money currently allocated this year’s capital budget will be dedicated to the Cincinnati area for other purposes, but with the same goal of spurring future economic investment.