By The Honorable Dwight Tillery
Former Mayor of Cincinnati
Jeff Berding and FC Cincinnati want the West End stadium named after Willard Stargel at Taft High School to be the new home stadium for FC Cincinnati.
Coach Stargel was a great athlete, coach and man. I knew him and his children. I roomed across the hall from his son Scott while we were students at the University of Cincinnati.
Coach Stargel endured many racial roadblocks while growing up in this city. He led U.C. to a Big Ten victory season in football resulting in his team being invited to the Sun Bowl-only to be told he could not play because of the color of his skin. He developed some of the best sport teams and athletes in the city while coaching at Taft. As a student at Withrow, our teams knew we were in a tough fight when we played Taft in football, basketball, and track. Even Taft’s marching band had the same flare and excitement we see today, with the marching bands of the historically Black universities and colleges.
February is the month of Black History and Jeff Berding wants the school board to vote to demolish a perfectly good stadium named after our hero in order to provide a soccer stadium for entertainment and, yes, profit. This stadium is shared by several public schools.
I find it just insulting that Berding would not only make such a request, but use our tax dollars from the City Council and the Cincinnati Public Schools’ Board of Education to make this happen. What is he thinking and why are school board members apparently dragging their feet with a simple issue facing it—sell a perfectly good stadium that our children are using to an organization that wants it for a private purpose—to make money?
This proposed transaction has absoutely nothing at all to do with educating our children. The school board’s own vision/mission states the following: “Cincinnati Public Schools will be a community that ensures equitable access to a world-class education, unleashing the potential of every student. Mission: We educate all students with rigor and care in a culture of excellence to develop engaged citizens who are prepared for life.”
The school board says it need inputs from the community, FC, the business community to make a determination? Parents ought to be outraged. This decision is a no brainer, unless there’s more to the story, and, believe me, there is more to this story and it stinks, for Black people once again will be sacrificed for the good of the majority.
And how about the person for whom the stadium was named after? Can you imagine going to LaSalle, St. Xavier or Elder and saying we need your stadium for a similar purpose. The school board owes the taxpayers, parents and their children a quick answer—no. Why are you wasting time unless you really think this is a good idea?
Folks, I’m told that Berding said in a meeting recently with stakeholders in the downtown area that the West End would become OTRWest. You heard me right. From OTR to the central city to the Montgomery Boathouse, Black residents will virtually be non-existent. Go to the Google maps and you will see why just not Berding wants this land, but the Cincinnati businesses do, too. Three stadiums, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra looking to be the entertainment venue on the Banks, the streetcar development, etc.
The gentrification is ugly, and soon Blacks will be displaced in numbers you won’t believe. Look at the gentrification in Avondale, Walnut and East Walnut Hills, Mt. Adams, Mt. Auburn, Madisonville, etc. Where will Black people be able to call home? Where are our institutions and statues recognizing that we passed through this life—gone.
As I think about what is going on in the West End, it reminds me when our family lived there. In particular, I recall peering out of my attic bedroom window and saw the bright lights of Crosley Field during the Reds game. White people laughing and driving those beautiful cars in our community. But one of the things that I’ll never forget was the fact that my father had to move his car off the public street so that the White people could park on game day.
Now we’re being asked to remove a stadium named in the honor of Coach Willard Stargel—one of our heroes-so that White soccer fans can enjoy themselves there and our Black leaders once again sit in silence.