Life has just a few milestone moments—births, deaths, graduations, weddings, cross-country moves—when we face radical, disrupting change. Otherwise we swim steadily in the “now,” usually unaware of the incremental changes around us, until one day we wonder How did I get all that gray hair? (At least I did.)
A city’s lifespan can be viewed in a similar light, with disruptions noted mostly in hindsight. Cincinnati had one of those milestone moments recently, when Major League Soccer finally accepted FC Cincinnati’s membership application. And I wondered How did our city get here?
Twenty years ago, the last time Cincinnati planned a major sports stadium, civic leaders had the opportunity to help turn around a struggling part of downtown by placing the new Reds ballpark on a surface parking lot where Jack Casino now stands. They didn’t, and it would be another decade until redevelopment took off in nearby Over-the-Rhine and Pendleton. Those neighborhoods helped attract a new generation that coalesced around soccer’s international appeal, leading Carl Lindner III—whose father co-owned those Reds 20 years ago—to fund a new FC Cincinnati stadium next to Over-the-Rhine.
That’s not the only marker of how much Cincinnati has changed. Far from it. Consider Wendy Lea’s journey to build Cintrifuse into a national startup funding star, the number of cities hiring Joe Nickol and Kevin Wright to share Cincinnati’s prowess at neighborhood development, and the city’s amazing street food scene featuring a fleet of food trucks, 10 taco takeouts, and lots of late-night options.
We also embrace our quirky past these days instead of being embarrassed by it or dismissing it as old-fashioned. This issue examines local rites of passage like being in the peanut gallery on The Uncle Al Show, attending the annual Jazz Fest (now the Cincinnati Music Festival) at Paul Brown Stadium, and booing Adam Dunn, who nonetheless returns to town this month to join the Reds Hall of Fame. Will wonders never cease?