It’s an all-Ohio update today. Let’s start off with the procedural stuff.
I outlined this on Twitter, but for those who don’t use that platform, I’ll go over it here.
We’ve got confirmation that the lower court record has been transmitted to the Appeals Court. That consists of any pleadings, orders, exhibits, transcripts and the like. What that means is that the clock is now ticking for the defendants (PSV/MLS) to file their brief, explaining why they think the lower court ruling is wrong. Based on the Court rules, the deadline for that is June 8. At the same time, the PSV/MLS response to the SaveTheCrew motion to dismiss of the appeal is due June 1. Bear with me, because it may get a bit confusing from here. If the Plaintiffs decide they want to file a reply on the motion to dismiss the appeal, THAT is also due June 8. So on the 8th, we could have each party filing briefing on the same appeal, but on different issues.
After the court receives the reply to the motion to dismiss, they are then free to review and rule on the matter. It is unlikely that the court will schedule oral arguments, so the decision on whether to dismiss the appeal will just come from a review of the record.
I don’t have any inside information, so I’m just guessing that we’ll get a response on the motion to dismiss by the end of June at the latest. It could be by the third week in June even. If the appeal is dismissed, we could have the interesting situation where the parties are working on briefing on the appeal as they get notice it’s dismissed.
FC Cincinnati Expansion: What took so long?
Well, the day is almost here. We have multiple reports that next week (May 29), MLS will descend upon Cincinnati, and grant the city a MLS franchise. So, what’s been the hold-up from when MLS was originally going to announce two expansion teams in December 2017? Well, there have been several things. Of the four finalists, only Nashville was able to get across the expansion line. Sacramento ran into ownership problems, and Detroit pulled a bait-and-switch on a stadium site.
And even after FCC reached at deal to build a soccer specific stadium in Oakley, it became clear that MLS did not want that site. So FCC put on the high-press and went after the West End site. After some negotiation, that agreement was secured in April. There was also the need to approve a Community Benefits Agreement, but that always seemed a bit of a formality. So what else was holding up the deal?
Enter: Nippert Stadium. It seems as if FCC has been angling to start playing in MLS for the 2019 season (just based on what I’ve been reading). Given that, and the fact that a new stadium won’t be ready until 2020 or 2021, that means that there is the need for a temporary venue. Now, Nippert Stadium works just fine for that of course, but that means that a new agreement needs to be reached. The lease agreement between FCC and the University of Cincinnati (the owners) pertains to the operation of a USL side. I’ll run through the relevant terms; bear in this isn’t an official copy of the lease, but a Word document I was able to obtain. I am fully confident it matches up, however.
Lease term: Lasts until December 31, 2018, AND has the option for renewal periods.
See we’re already getting somewhere. It’s fairly likely that, as the last year of the initial term, FCC notified the University that they were not going to renew under the terms of the lease. One, because they may be in a new building by the time the next term is up (which would be after the 2021 season) and two, this is an agreement for operation of a USL side, as I mentioned. So, what does it say about MLS, if anything?
My reading of this would lead me to believe that this was more intended to apply if FCC joined MLS during the lease term, and thus making sure the University was compensated for that. Now we don’t know if FCC gave notice of intent (where have we heard that before) not to renew a new three-year term for 2019-2021. Again, I tend to think they must have, as they are likely hoping to be in a new stadium by the 2021 season at the latest, and probably by 2020. Either way, with FCC joining MLS for 2019, the above terms call for FCC/MLS to pay some additional coin to the University. So what was FCC paying to the University?
Pretty generous terms for FCC, wouldn’t you say? Though there are some other goodies that the University gets.
There are some other things having to do with concession revenue and parking, but again, the bottom line is that this deal was for a USL team, AND the deal is up at the end of this year, unless FCC/MLS decided to opt in for another three years (technically, they’d have to opt out, but different sides of the same coin).
Either way, it’s likely that part of the delay had to do with a renegotiation of these lease terms, both as to the duration and the rate of payment. FCC was getting a pretty sweet deal under the USL terms (probably due to the relationship between the University and the owner). Probably safe to bet the University is getting some additional compensation, and those things take time to negotiate.