The Cincinnati Bengals are planning to build an interim indoor training facility and will go before city planning officials next week for their approval.
The proposed bubble would be located south of Mehring Way between the Brent Spence and Clay Wade Bailey bridges. The site is southwest across Mehring Way from the Bengals’ current outdoor facility.
Katie Blackburn, the team’s executive vice president, said on March 30 at the NFL’s annual meetings that the team was “definitely looking” into plans to add an indoor facility soon. The plans were filed with the city on April 1.
The filing with the Cincinnati Planning Commission doesn’t mention what will become of the current training facility, other than the team intends “to find a more permanent solution, on the subject site or elsewhere, to its indoor practice needs in the near future. “
The new temporary facility, a removable and inflated 75-foot high air dome that attaches to a concrete footer, would have a regulation-size interior turf practice field. It also would have an 8-foot security fence and 187 parking spaces.
The training dome would be built at the team’s expense on property leased from Hamilton County with the goal of having it ready for the 2022 season. The dome would be removed from the site in case of flooding since the site is on the banks of the Ohio River, according to the filing with city planners.
The Bengals have contracted with a private firm to prepare to disassemble the dome once the river rises to the level of 51 feet.
National Weather Service records show the river has crested at or above 51 feet at the Roebling Suspension Bridge near the stadium six times since 2016. The weather service says a river level of 58 feet is required to flood Mehring Way and Freeman Avenue, a lower- lying area several blocks west of the proposed interim training facility. The river has crested downtown at or above 58 feet only once since 2016, the weather service records show.
The filing does not list a dollar amount for the project.
Hamilton County purchased the seven acres from Hilltop Concrete in 2020 for $12 million and has paved it over for parking. It is part of a $30 million agreement reached with the Bengals and the concrete company in 2018 that paved the way for the music venue to be built next to Paul Brown Stadium.
Hilltop has squeezed its riverfront operations to 10 acres as it looks for a new location.
The county will make the remaining purchase of the land once the concrete company relocates. Hilltop Chief Executive Officer Kevin Sheehan hopes that will be by the end of this year or early next year.
The company has identified another site along the Ohio River in Hamilton County but has not made the final purchase. There’s also another site in Northern Kentucky that’s a possibility, he said.
He said he hopes to make an announcement in the next few months.
“We have flexibility when we have to be out by,” Sheehan said. “There are no hard deadlines to be out. It is in our best interest to make this move happen as soon as possible.”
City Council also will have to approve an ordinance to allow the facility to be built, assuming it passes the planning commission, as recommended by city staff.
Conditions in the ordinance would allow the Bengals to operate the interim facility for no more than five years and require the team to remove the bubble at no cost to the city if it is deemed abandoned after not being used for a year. The ordinance is scheduled for a hearing before council’s Equitable Growth & Housing Committee at 1 pm April 26 in council chambers at 801 Plum St. downtown.