A MAPFRE Stadium redevelopment proposal calls for a Community Sports Park with MLS training space on the site, while Columbus Crew SC builds a new stadium elsewhere in the city.
Crew investor-operator Anthony Precourt has been exploring a move of the club to Austin, but a plan announced in October could keep the Crew in Columbus while allowing Precourt to build a new Austin stadium. That scenario would involve a group led by Jimmy and Dee Haslam–owners of the NFL’s Cleveland Browns–and the Columbus-based Edwards family buying into MLS and receiving operating rights to Columbus. Meanwhile, Precourt 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).
A potential takeover of the Crew by the Haslam-Edwards group has not been finalized, and it is expected that any plan for the club to remain in Columbus will require upgraded facilities–including a replacement for the aging MAPFRE Stadium. On Wednesday, Columbus officials unveiled a concept that reuses MAPFRE Stadium while developing the surrounding land into a sports park. The space would include community and tournament fields, as well as training space for the Crew. Should the Haslam-Edwards group take control of the Crew and move forward with new stadium plans, work on the Community Sports Park would commence after the club’s new venue opens. More from The Columbus Dispatch:
The Community Sports Park would benefit the neighborhoods surrounding the stadium, such as Linden, North Columbus, the University District, Weinland Park and more, leaders said. It will increase park access to the more than 200,000 residents who live within three miles of the facility and provide more space for city-wide programming.
The envisioned sports park, which the city would pay to develop, would include indoor community programming spaces, eight indoor basketball courts, a full-size indoor soccer field, at least six outdoor athletic fields, two MLS-level practice fields, and additional green space.
“We will adapt and reuse Mapfre Stadium and transform the site to benefit the entire community,” said Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther.
The facility would be a regional destination for sought-after tournaments and events, Ginther said, calling the envisioned facility a “premier destination for youth sports in Columbus.”
Located at the Ohio State Fairgrounds, MAPFRE Stadium opened in 1999 as something of a standard bearer in the model of soccer-specific MLS stadium. However, it has been outpaced by other facilities, as the level of amenities within the league’s stadiums has been raised considerably in the years since.
Image courtesy City of Columbus.
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