The Columbus City Council took a step toward a new Columbus Crew SC stadium Monday, when it approved a memorandum of understanding for the project.
Last week, plans were unveiled for a new Crew stadium on a site in the city’s Arena District west of Huntington Park, the home of baseball’s Clippers (Class AAA; International League). Construction of the stadium would be part of a plan to keep the Crew in Columbus. Club investor-operator Anthony Precourt was making efforts to move the team from Columbus to Austin until it was announced earlier this fall that discussions were taking place about keeping it in Ohio. In that scenario, a group led by Jimmy and Dee Haslam–owners of the NFL’s Cleveland Browns–and the Columbus-based Edwards family would buy into MLS and receive operating rights to Columbus. Meanwhile, 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).
That transaction has not been finalized to this point, but plans for a new $230 million stadium and surrounding development in Columbus took a step forward with Monday’s action by the city council. The council voted 6-0 to approve a new Crew stadium MOU that calls for a $50 million contribution to the project, covering site development and infrastructure work for the new stadium as well as a redevelopment plan for the MAPFRE Stadium site. More from the Columbus Dispatch:
The city had a Dec. 31 deadline to approve the detail. Franklin County has also pledged $50 million toward the project.
Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy and Dee Haslam and Dr. Peter H. Edwards Jr. and his family of Columbus plan to buy the Crew from Anthony Precourt, putting in a total $400 million to the partnership under the memorandum. The new $230-million soccer stadium would be the centerpiece of the “Confluence Village” development that includes 270,000 square feet of commercial and office space and 885 residential units, 20 percent of which would be designated as “affordable housing.”
Community activist Joe Motil and Franklinton Area Commissioner Christopher Merkel criticized the city for rushing the deal through.
Alex Fischer, president and CEO of the Columbus Partnership, said Major League Soccer required a deal quickly; the deadline was Dec. 31.
If constructed, the new stadium will serve as a replacement for MAPFRE Stadium–the home of the Crew on the Ohio State Fairgrounds that first opened in 1999. The proposed stadium would also reflect current MLS trends by following the soccer-specific model, with surrounding development and the ability to connect to existing amenities in the Arena District–a part of Columbus that includes Huntington Park and Nationwide Arena, the home of the NHL’s Blue Jackets.
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