Cincinnati tourism organization eyes possible spots for new, bigger arena

CINCINNATI — Visit Cincy, a destination marketing and management organization that works to drum up tourism in the region, released a PowerPoint presentation created to highlight where and how a newly built arena could change the landscape of Cincinnati.

The new arena proposed by Visit Cincy would be a replacement to the existing Heritage Bank Center, which was built in 1975. The Heritage Bank Center has been criticized in recent years for being an outdated facility that offers a lower seating capacity than other arenas in the area. City and business leaders alike have argued that, to compete for large-scale concerts and other events, Cincinnati needs a better arena option.

Visit Cincy pointed out eight total locations in which it believes a new arena could be built:

  • One in the West End;
  • One near the Hard Rock Casino;
  • One where Heritage Bank Arena stands today;
  • One where Longworth Hall stands today;
  • One near the Duke Energy Convention Center;
  • Two slightly different locations where the former Millennium Hotel stood.

Visit Cincy

Heritage Bank Center currently holds roughly 17,556 people for the events, concerts and sporting events that take place there. The proposal from Visit Cincy details what the West End location could look like, situated at the corner of Ezzard Charles Drive and West Central Parkway, with a note that the design would allow the capacity to rise to around 18,000.

The timeline projected by Visit Cincy would have pre-work and research on the project beginning in the spring of 2023, with construction spanning between 2026 and 2028.

The tourism agency estimated in its presentation that possible economic impact of the new arena, once built, could reach $300 million based on data collected impact of TQL Stadium.

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Visit Cincy

“Cincinnati’s existing modern facilities — or lack thereof — currently hurt its ability to attract major events, such as the NCAA men’s basketball tournament,” reads a slide in the PowerPoint. “As a result, we are also losing out on millions in potential tourism revenue associated with those events.”

Jeff Berding, chairman of Visit Cincy, was vocal in March about his desire for an organization or government agency to conduct a third-party study into how a new arena could be built in Cincinnati.

“Where the arena would go and how we’re going to pay for it will be the two big questions and then the third would be how to operate it,” said Berding.

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Visit Cincy

He also said in March that he doubted the new arena would be built in the same space where Heritage Bank Center now stands, because of agreements that would have to be forged between the city, county and others involved in the project.

Visit Cincy’s presentation does not say what kind of price tag the new srena designs would bear, or where the funding would come from, though the production timeline includes plans for a feasibility study and defining an “arena financing strategy.”

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Visit Cincy

The city has been down this road before after the owners of Heritage Bank Center, Anschultz Entertainment, pushed for a brand new arena at the current site. However, they don’t want to pay for it and are pushing to sell it back to a public entity like the city or county. This is something Hamilton County Commissioners opposed in 2019, saying the county already owns Paycor Stadium and Great American Ball Park.

The initiative is already supported by the Cincinnati Cyclones, Huntington, the Cincinnati Regional Chamber and the Cincinnati Regional Business Committee, Visit Cincy cites in the presentation.

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Visit Cincy

The case for a new Cincinnati stadium or arena has also been argued from more than one angle recently.

While some organizations and officials have been vying for a new space to replace Heritage Bank Arena, Hamilton County Commissioners have looked to improving the existing Paycor Stadium in the hopes of accomplishing similar goals.

The county and the Bengals hired an outside firm, Gensler Sports, for a capital assessment. In May 2022, Gensler Sports said basic repairs to Paycor could cost more than $493 million. That includes fixing steel rails and ramps, replacing seats and upgrading electric and plumbing systems.

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Visit Cincy

That number does not include a potential $200 million more for future upgrades like luxury lounges, high-end food or drink and new signs and scoreboards. WCPO obtained an early version of the master plan last summer, which had ideas like standing-room-only decks and drink rails, field goal and endzone cameras and changes to seating.

The main argument from commissioners for tapping Paycor Stadium to serve as the city’s large-scale event attraction is that it’s already here.

“We have an asset that costs us 365 days. We’ve got to have events happening as many days as possible,” said Hamilton County Commissioner President Alicia Reece.


You can view the full presentation below:

Visit Cincy Arena by WCPO 9 News on Scribd

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