Photos by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.29
TQL Stadium 1501 Central Pkwy Cincinnati, OH 45214
Year Opened: 2021 Capacity: 26,000
TQL In Cincinnati
Football Club Cincinnati (FC Cincinnati) has been in existence since 2015. At that time, they played at the USL’s Champions level of competition. They played their home matches at Nippert Stadium at the University of Cincinnati. The team was an immediate success, as the population of Queen City has a large ethnically diverse population, and soccer was their game of choice.
By 2019, they had applied for membership at the MLS level. This application was approved, with the requirement that a soccer-specific stadium be built for the team in the first few years of membership in the MLS. The team immediately went to work on getting a venue built. After much discussion of several sites and some trading of property with the local school system work got underway on building a new stadium in the neighborhoods just northwest of downtown Cincinnati. There were still some delays, as the team changed architects, choosing Populous as their new designer.
Finally, the $250 million stadium opened in 2021 as West End Stadium. It offers a soccer-specific stadium with a capacity of 25,513. A majority of those seats are chairback seats with cupholders. The stadium includes 59 suites, a 3,100-person standing area for the supporter groups, and 4,500 premium or club seats. The stadium seats feature the team’s kit colors of blue with the accent color of orange.
One side of the pitch features the winged lion crest of the team in bright orange on the seating area, while the opposite side of seats spells out “FCC.” Just before their first season in the new venue, Total Quality Logistics (TQL), signed on as the naming rights holder for the stadium. TQL is a freight brokerage and third-party logistics firm.
Food & Beverage 4
TQL Stadium has an extensive set of food and beverage items available for FC Cincinnati fans. There are 14 concession stands, 20 portable carts, and three bars to serve the appetites and thirst of the crowds. There are enough vendors spread throughout the stadium that you should not experience any long lines.
The lineup of food vendors at the matches includes LaRosa’s Pizza, Rhine Roost, Gomez Tacos, AJ’S Philly Cheesesteaks, Frisch’s, Smokehaus, Queen City Eats, Buffalo Wings and Rings, and Skyline Chili. There are also three grab-and-go-style convenience outlets in the stadium.
Alcoholic drinks are available at the Heineken Supporter’s Bar, the Coors Light Bar, or the Rhinegeist Bar.
TQL offers an excellent electronics package. The exterior of the stadium features ribbed steel girders with LED lighting attached so that the outside skin can feature multiple colors and spell out a variety of messages. Inside the facility are two massive scoreboards at each end of the pitch. They are the widest videoboards in the MLS, as they measure 150 feet each.
There are also ribbon boards fronting the front decks on either side of the pitch. The stadium also offers an up close and personal view of the action on the pitch. Most seats are within 15 feet of the pitch, with no seats more than 130 feet from the pitch. This is accomplished by having a 34-degree to the stands.
One of the most appreciated aspects of the design of the TQL Stadium is the canopy that covers the entire seating bowl. This allows the fans to stay dry and protected from the rain and snow that can occur during the early spring games. It also provides shade and protection from the sun during the summer portion of the schedule.
TQL Stadium sits on Central Parkway, which is the dividing line between the West End and the Over the Rhine neighborhoods. Cincinnati is unique in that it has a large residential population mixed with businesses and shops. The Over the Rhine neighborhood has the reputation of being the largest entertainment district in the city, as it is filled with restaurants, museums, bars, and theatres. Many of the buildings in this area are on the National Register of Historic Places.
The West End is more residential. The ownership of FC Cincinnati had to make many concessions in the size of the stadium, as well as scale back the exterior lighting planned for the stadium in response to the demands of the neighborhood associations that border the venue.
The Pitch Cincy is a soccer-themed bar located across the street from TQL Stadium. It offers food trucks, a rooftop patio, and a video wall to televise multiple soccer games from around the world. Also close by is the Cincinnati Music Hall, which offers a wide range of musical concerts throughout the year.
The roads on the east side of TQL Stadium are closed to traffic three hours before the matches start so that the team can set the pregame entertainment zone. This area includes food and drink vendors, numerous soccer-related skills contests, team merchandise tables, and plenty of music. The East Fan Plaza opens two hours before the match and closes 30 minutes before the start.
One of the most impressive aspects of the pregame celebration period is the Supporters March. The March begins with each supporter group setting out from their home neighborhoods. They all meet up at Washington Park, which is a few blocks from the stadium. They then march as one unified group into the stadium. The capos and drummers from each group work very hard at coordinating this pregame tradition. Each supporter group has the responsibility of designing its tifo, or banner, before each match.
For the most part, the supporter groups are based on geography or heritage. These include Auxilia One (FC Cincinnati fans in the New York City area), Die Innenstadt (inner city residents of Cincinnati), Norden (northern suburbs of Cincinnati), and Hanger 937 (residents of Dayton, Ohio that support FC Cincinnati). Other groups include Briogaid (Irish/Celtic fans), the Queen City Mafia (American football fans that like soccer), and the Knights of the Bailey (made up of the capos and drummers that coordinate the chants and songs during the matches with all the groups mentioned above).
FC Cincinnati has a local and regional network of 19 Pub Partners for each match. The drinking establishments agree to have their TVs and big screens tuned to the FCC match during both home and away matches. This allows the team to build their brand in communities outside of Queen City, while the pubs get more business from the promotion the team gives them.
Getting to an FC Cincinnati game may be the most difficult part of the game-day experience. This is because the stadium is in the middle of a downtown area in a midsize city. The streets around the stadium are narrow, as they typically serve a residential population.
There are several parking lots scattered around TQL Stadium. There are 2,000 parking spots within two blocks of the stadium. The remaining lots are not managed by the team. This means the parking fees can vary dramatically.
Many people who live close to the stadium prefer to just bike to the matches. TQL offers free bike racks outside of the stadium for these fans.
The most cost-effective and stress-free way to get to TQL on gamedays is to take the Cincinnati Bell Connector Streetcar. This streetcar circulates throughout the city regularly. There is a streetcar stop at Washington Park, which is a four-minute walk from the stadium. Best of all, this service is free!
There are six entry gates at TQL Stadium. They open 90 minutes before the match start. Once inside, the stadium concourses are 30 feet wide and are very easy to navigate. The aisles are well-marked and easy to follow. The legroom is better than average, and all seats have cupholders. A majority of the seats in the stadium feature chairback seating.
Accessibility for people with disabilities is a priority at the stadium. Entry gates offer a separate lane for people with disabilities so they will not have to stand for long lengths of time. Once inside, every restroom has wider stalls for those who have impairments.
The team also has assistive listening devices or noise-deadening headphones for people who have sensory issues. The ribbon boards that front the upper-level seating offer close-captioned messaging throughout the matches.
Return on Investment 4
Tickets for FC Cincinnati games come at several price points. The most expensive seat for an individual match is $59 for a seat on the upper level at Midfield. Other levels include $44 for upper-level seats on the sides, $35 for lower level in the corners, $32 for lower levels seats at one end of the pitch, and $25 for upper-level seats at one end of the pitch. Not surprisingly, the Supporter Group standing seats at the other end of the pitch on the lower level are the cheapest at $19.
We found the food and beverage prices were quite reasonable. Parking lot prices varied in our research. The Bell Connector streetcar can’t be beat as far as price as it is free. It also offers a convenient drop-off/pick-up location just a four-minute walk from the stadium.
FC Cincinnati has one of the largest team stores in the MLS. It measures 9,000 square feet and offers two levels of shopping. At 59 suites, TQL Stadium qualifies as having the most suites of any MLS stadium that does not host an NFL team. In addition to MLS matches, TQL Stadium has hosted CONCACAF Third Round and Gold Quarterfinal Matches.
FC Cincinnati has one of the most fervent fan bases in the MLS. TQL Stadium rewards that loyalty with a venue that is a terrific place for fans to enjoy the Beautiful Game.