The hum from moving machinery buzzed between words as Jeff Berding spoke. Behind him, yellow-vested construction workers toiled as two massive red cranes lifted steel from a pile into the West End Stadium’s framework.

“We spent about a full year just pushing dirt and digging a hole, so to see the stadium going vertical … is very exciting,” Berding said. “It goes from designs on a piece of paper to actually coming to fruition.”

Wednesday marked the one-year anniversary of when FC Cincinnati celebrated the groundbreaking of West End Stadium. At the time, the groundbreaking was in ceremony only. Other than a few hundred orange plastic shovels, the plot of land that will house America’s next great soccer cathedral was simply a field of dirt and pebbles.

Today, that same spot has a framework. As media toured the construction site on Wednesday, Berding noted where the future locker rooms will be and where the midfield circle will eventually be painted.

The “pushing dirt and digging a hole” is now laying 50 pieces of steel a day on the eastern and western portions of the stadium. The steel will be finished this summer. The first home match will be the following March.

All of this is an impressive contrast even from July, when FC Cincinnati unveiled the final renderings of their future home. Even that moment seemed a far cry from the early days of the club, when the team’s staff numbered in the single digits and occupied one floor of a downtown building.

What Wednesday’s event reminded everyone is that 2021 is closer than most realize. 

While there’s still an exciting season ahead at Nippert Stadium – where FCC will play a fifth and final season – there are only 17 more MLS matches at the venerable stadium before West End Stadium hosts the Orange and Blue for good.

As coach Ron Jans pointed out in a September postmatch press conference, Cincinnati is a “club under construction.”

The steel beams are being lifted into place while GM Gerard Nijkamp makes transfer moves from across the ocean in Europe.

When Berding mentioned the stadium designs originating on a piece of paper, it’s worth remembering the idea of FC Cincinnati had the same origin. 

Look at what the club has become – and what is to come in 2021.