TQL Stadium – FC Cincinnati
Photos by Marc Voquez, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.86
TQL Stadium 1501 Central Pkwy Cincinnati, OH 45214
Year Opened: 2021 Capacity: 26,000
TQL Lights Up Cincinnati’s West Side
TQL Stadium is the home of FC Cincinnati of Major League Soccer. It is one of the league’s newest soccer-specific venues built for $250 million and offers seating for 26,000 people that are covered by a canopy roof. The facility opened on May 16, 2021, and includes an exterior LED-illuminated facade with vertical “fins” that individually light up to create special effects and animations.
FC Cincinnati began operations in 2016 in the United Soccer League, now USL Championship operated at Nippert Stadium. Success was quick with the new soccer club as record crowds of around 17,000 plus descended upon the University of Cincinnati campus for matches during the first season. The number would increase to 25,717 by the third season before FCC made the jump to the MLS in 2019.
The naming rights for the stadium were secured by a long-term agreement with Total Quality Logistics (TQL) a month before it hosted its first MLS match. The groundbreaking took place in 2018 on the former Stargel Stadium site that was home to Taft High School. A land swamp between FC Cincinnati and Cincinnati Public Schools resulted in a new high school field for Taft to be completed a few blocks away from TQL.
Food & Beverage 4
There is an assortment of menu items, from traditional hot dogs and nachos to chicken schnitzel and salmon bowls at TQL Stadium. The local Cincinnati favorites are all here and include Skyline Chili, Buffalo Wings & Rings, Frisch’s Big Boy, and La Rosa’s Pizza. You will also find grab-and-go areas, large outdoor bars, and many other favorites on the main concourse.
The Smokehouse features pulled pork sandwiches, rip tips, barbecue nachos, burnt ends, and mac and cheese. Rhine Roost sells fried chicken, chicken tenders, and the previously mentioned chicken schnitzel. Fusian offers to poke bowls, sushi, and salmon bowls. Queen City Eats is where you will find more traditional options of hot dogs, burgers, pretzels, and nachos.
There are 170 beers on tap that also include wine, seltzers and mixed drinks at various locations. The Coors Light Bar and Heineken Bar at The Bailey are two bigger areas where customers line up for their favorite beers. Local beers at the stadium include Rhinegeist, MadTree, and Braxton.
The atmosphere is loud and raucous during an FCC match, with a majority of the seats occupied by fans and the supporter section, The Bailey, providing most of the noise throughout the 90 minutes of soccer. The stadium has almost everything a fan would want, from a 30-foot-wide concourse, two large scoreboards, ribbon-style wrap-around boards, and a team store that takes up two floors.
The Bailey seating area consists of 3,170 safe-standing seating at a slope of 34 degrees. The supporter group chants, sings, waves flags, bang drums, and provides an edge to FCC. They march into each game in a line that begins less than a mile away at Northern Row Brewery & Distillery.
The concourse is packed with fans in orange and blue grabbing something to eat and drink, but many take to their seats in the two-tier seating bowl covered by the canopy. There are open views of the pitch from almost every point of the concourse, and the cacophony of noise from the fans is deafening.
TQL is near the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. The “OTR” is on the edge of downtown Cincinnati which has blossomed over the past decade with local restaurants, shops, and breweries. There is quite a bit to choose with many offering American and international fare at their establishments.
The Eagle specializes in fried chicken and braised pork sandwiches. Bakersfield features street tacos and tortas. Che is an Argentinian restaurant that serves empanadas and choripan (grilled chorizo sandwiches). Sacred Beast Diner has an all-day breakfast and burgers. A Taste of Belgium is known for its frites and waffles with homemade cream.
Local breweries near TQL include Taft Ale House, Northern Row Brewery & Distillery, Rhinegiest, which provides wonderful views of downtown on its former warehouse roof, and Alcove by MadTree Brewing, a warm, inviting, and casual restaurant.
Downtown along the Ohio River is the home of the Cincinnati Reds, Cincinnati Bengals, and Cincinnati Cyclones, respectively-Great American Ballpark, Paul Brown Stadium, and Heritage Bank Center. A few miles away from TQL is the Cincinnati Museum Center and American Sign Museum for a touch of culture during your visit to the Queen City.
FCC has had support from the city since day one as a second-division club in the USL. That success of 21,000 plus fans per game in year three propelled them to the MLS and a state-of-the-art soccer-only venue. The crowds are still around that size for home matches, and The Bailey is the heart and soul of the fan experience.
Getting around inside the stadium is relatively easy, but the commute there can be cumbersome due to its neighborhood location. It is advisable to arrive early to avoid any traffic congestion and delays. There are 13 parking lots near the stadium, and the Cincinnati Bell Connector offers over 10 stops within a 10-minute walk to the venue. Private lots offer parking for a small fee, but they tend to fill up quickly close to kickoff.
Return on Investment 4
The price of a ticket for most FCC matches is around $26 plus fees through SeatGeek. I am not sure that tickets can be purchased at the TQL Stadium box office on or before the match game. The price will increase for matches against in-state rival Columbus Crew where prices almost double. The cost of food ranges from $8-$10, while beer selections depend on macro and craft, between $11 and $14. Parking also differs depending on how close you are to the stadium, with street parking available for free but secure parking lots for around $15.
FCC earns a point for The Bailey. The spirit supporter group is the heart and soul of the gameday experience. A second point is for the stadium’s exterior that shines in the colors of blue and orange while also displaying messages. At night, the colors illuminate the sky quite vividly. A third point is for the local selection of food at the game, plus a few more creations made for fans at the stadium.
A lot has changed since I lived in Cincinnati and worked for a professional soccer team in the USL. That was in 2003, and I never fathomed that within 20 years, the city would have an MLS club and a 26,000-seat venue for soccer. Cincinnati loves their soccer and supports their club through the good times and bad times. It is one of the better experiences in the league and a must to visit when in town.