A plan to keep the club in Columbus still has be finalized, but owners of a potential Crew stadium site in the Arena District are willing to discuss a sale.
Late last week, it was revealed that the Crew might remain in Columbus rather than relocate to Austin. That scenario would involve a group led by Jimmy and Dee Haslam–owners of the NFL’s Cleveland Browns–and Pete Edwards Jr. buying into MLS and receiving operating rights to Columbus. Meanwhile, current Crew investor-operator Anthony Precourt would remain a MLS investor, allowing him to move forward with plans for a new Austin stadium no later than the 2021 season. (Remember: MLS is a membership league, not a franchise league).
There are several outstanding questions surrounding this potential transaction, one of which being what the Haslam/Edwards group would do for the Crew’s long-term stadium plan. It is uncertain how long the club would continue operating at MAPFRE Stadium, and if a new downtown venue would be pursued as a replacement. One site that has been speculated as a strong fit if a new downtown stadium is favored is a parcel in the Arena District located just west of Huntington Park, the home of baseball’s Columbus Clippers (Class AAA; International League). Building at this site, however, would require an agreement with two private landowners.
In recent comments, representatives of both landowners indicated a willingness to discuss a potential sale for a MLS stadium. Neither suggested that a sale is an imminent possibility, but acknowledged that they would be open to discussing the project with the prospective investor group. More from The Columbus Dispatch:
Those owners include Savko Brothers Properties, which has owned a triangular, 9-acre plot west of Huntington Park since the 1990s, and Nationwide Realty Investors, which owns a larger parcel of land bordered by Nationwide Boulevard to the south, the Savko Brothers site to the east and land owned by the city of Columbus to the west. A railroad line owned by CSX divides the two properties….
“First and foremost this is great for the City. Nationwide Realty Investors has been, and will remain open to considering any serious proposal related to our property west of Huntington Park, including any viable proposal from the new investor group,” Nationwide Realty President and Chief Operating Officer Brian Ellis said in a statement. “While we have had a few discussions about the property with the investor group, we have not received any specific proposals to acquire the site at this time.”
Martin Savko, whose family has operated the Savko & Sons earth-moving and contracting company since 1946, said he was first made aware of interest in a soccer stadium in the Arena District two weeks ago and was informed last week that an announcement regarding the group of prospective owners was imminent. He declined to named the people who contacted him.
“We’re happy and delighted that this team is going to be kept in Columbus for the benefit of the sports fans and the city of Columbus,” Savko said. “We have a unique piece of property that is situated between (Huntington Park) and the potential site for the Downtown soccer arena. Given that, it makes sense that that piece of property of ours plays in the equation somewhere.”
Keep in mind that there is still a lot be resolved about the status of the Crew, so all of this is fairly preliminary. Aside from figuring out the implications for Austin, where Precourt’s Precourt Sports Ventures is still in negotiations with city officials, MLS would have to work with the Crew’s prospective investment group to resolve the club’s long-term stadium plans.
There are no indications about whether the club would move from MAPFRE Stadium if it remains in Columbus, but the Arena District fits in as the type of area that has become a popular spot for MLS stadiums. It already features two professional sports facilities in a downtown setting–Huntington Park and Nationwide Arena, home to the NHL’s Blue Jackets–and is surrounding by plenty of bars, restaurants, and entertainment options. A new stadium there could be a more tempting proposition than remaining at MAPFRE Stadium, which is located outside of downtown at the Ohio State Fairgrounds.
Image courtesy MAPFRE Stadium.
RELATED STORIES: Browns Owners Negotiating to Keep Crew in Columbus; Negotiations Over Austin MLS Stadium Agreement Continue; Austin, PSV Making Progress on Austin MLS Stadium Contract; Precourt Sports Ventures Unveils Austin FC Badge; Travis County Could Challenge Tax-Exempt Status of Austin MLS Stadium Proposal; Austin Approves McKalla Place Lease for New MLS Stadium; On Eve of Austin MLS Vote, Mark Wahlberg Expresses Interest in Crew; Why the Austin MLS Decision Matters; Austin MLS Stadium Vote Delayed; Councilmembers Call for Revised Austin MLS Stadium Terms; Save The Crew Unveils Proposed Columbus Crew SC Stadium; McKalla Place Development Proposals Unveiled; City Council Holds Special Meeting on Austin MLS Stadium Plan; Mayor Backs Austin MLS Stadium Proposal; Revised Austin MLS Stadium Proposal Terms Released; City Council Could Discuss Austin MLS Stadium Proposal Next Week; Group Eyes Public Vote; Austin MLS Stadium Information Session to be Held This Week; Austin City Council Passes McKalla Place Resolutions; Affordable Housing Added to Austin MLS Stadium Proposal; Thursday Important Day for Austin MLS Stadium Proposal; PSV: Columbus Crew SC Move to Austin Could be Jeopardized by McKalla Resolution; Austin City Council Debates McKalla Place MLS Stadium Pitch; Offer Made for McKalla Place Development; Austin MLS Stadium Plans Unveiled; New Information Surfacing on Austin MLS Stadium Pitch; Who Should Pay for Light Rail at New Austin MLS Stadium?; Site Concept Unveiled for Austin MLS Stadium at McKalla Place; Judge Sets 90-Day Toll in Columbus Crew SC Lawsuit