Under a proposal unveiled this week, U.S. Bank Arena would be demolished to make way for a new arena at the same site. The plan has come forward as organizers work to bring 2022 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament games to Cincinnati.
Hosting the games is contingent on broad-scale improvements to U.S. Bank Arena, and the latest proposal would call for the venue to be expanded. After it is torn down and rebuilt on the same site, U.S. Bank Arena would open with a seating capacity of around 19,000.
The announcement came as arena officials revealed that Cincinnati has landed 2022 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament games, on the condition that U.S. Bank Arena is significantly overhauled within the next few years. In an interview with Bill Cunningham of 700 WLW, Nederalander Entertainment COO Ray Harris said that company–which is an owner of the arena–intends to aggressively pursue the proposal. More from WCPO:
“We’re motivated like nobody else to make this thing happen,” Harris said on Cunningham’s show. “We’re working with the city and county on a vision — what’s capable, what makes the most sense, and what makes (U.S. Bank Arena) competitive for the region.”
Capacity for the new building would ideally reach 19,000, Harris said. The 42-year-old arena currently holds 17,000 people at capacity.
Harris said he had “no indication” that the name of the arena would change.
“This property has a lot of priority with our company,” Harris said. “(Nederlander)’s core businesses is Broadway entertainment, but U.S. Bank Arena is the largest facility we operate.”
Significant upgrades to U.S. Bank Arena–which originally opened as Riverfront Coliseum in 1975–have been sought for several years, particularly since its condition was cited as a factor in Cincinnati’s unsuccessful push for the 2016 Republican National Convention (which was ultimately rewarded to Cleveland). In 2015, Nederlander and AEG unveiled plans for an elaborate overhaul to the facility, but that has not come to fruition.
The latest proposal has been estimated to cost between $200 and $350 million, and could call for the commitment of some public funds. The possibility of landing men’s NCAA Tournament Games–which have not been played in Cincinnati since 1992–has been touted as a reason to follow through on the plan. Early indications are, however, that officials from both Hamilton County and the City of Cincinnati are leery of investing public funds into the project. More from The Cincinnati Enquirer:
“We already own two stadiums. We are full-up on stadiums,” said County Commissioner Chris Monzel, a Republican. “There’s got to be another way. To me, it rests with the owners and whether they want to make an investment.”
“Go do it. It’s your arena,” Portune said Wednesday. “We’ll be happy to help with permits and zoning, but don’t think that the county has a pot of money over here that we’re waiting to make available.”
City officials also seem chilly to the idea. Mayor John Cranley was out of town and couldn’t be reached Wednesday, but Councilwoman Yvette Simpson, one of Cranley’s opponents in the mayoral election this year, said she’s opposed to tax money for the arena.
Along with the expanded seating capacity, the arena could include new locker room and media space. In order for Cincinnati to land the tournament games, the overhaul would likely have to be completed just prior to the beginning of the 2021-2022 NCAA basketball season.