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Columbus seeks to become ‘standard-bearer’ with Crew stadium vision

Plans have been revealed for a new 20,000-seat stadium that is designed to keep Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise Columbus Crew in the Ohio city and serve as the centrepiece of a ‘Confluence Village’.

The plans were unveiled at a public event yesterday (Thursday) after city and county officials, along with the Columbus Partnership, on Wednesday announced the next steps in the purchase of the Crew and details of a plan for its existing Mapfre Stadium.

Working under the deadline of this month imposed by MLS to keep the Crew in Columbus, the families of Dee and Jimmy Haslam, owners of NFL American football franchise the Cleveland Browns, and Dr. Peter Edwards of Columbus have been working to complete the purchase of the team by the end of the year.

The city, county and new ownership are working toward a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to solidify the details of the sale of the team, a new stadium and the repurposing of Mapfre Stadium. Mayor Andrew Ginther on Wednesday said that Mapfre Stadium will be turned into the Columbus Community Sports Park, a shared-use centre with an indoor soccer field and basketball courts, tournament-level outdoor athletic fields and programming spaces for multigenerational activities.

Thursday’s event was dedicated to the vision for a new stadium, a $230m (£180.4m/€202.3m) facility on a downtown site. The 20,000-seat stadium will include 30 suites and loge boxes and 1,900 club seats, with all seating covered by a roof. The stadium will be surrounded by seven riverfront residential, office and parking structures on a total of 33 acres.

According to the Columbus Dispatch newspaper, Ginther said the stadium would be “a premier
facility for Columbus” and would attract worldwide attention for its design and fan experience. The plans envision commercial and office space of 270,000 square feet, along with 885 residential units, a minimum of 20% of which would be developed as affordable housing.

The proposed new ownership group for the Crew is committed to $645m in total investment for the twin stadium projects, $150m of which would be spent on acquiring the club from current owners Precourt Sport Ventures (PSV).

The Dispatch said the City of Columbus and Franklin County are pledging $50m each over 30 years to be managed by a community authority to support site development and infrastructure. City money
will not go towards stadium construction.

“This is the next step in what some may have thought was an impossible dream,” Alex Fischer, president and CEO of the Columbus Partnership said in a statement. “Today’s announcement showcases our community’s commitment, in partnership with the Haslam and Edwards families, to MLS soccer in Columbus.

“The creativity behind this one-of-a-kind public-private partnership brings together a vision for a new stadium with a broader community development plan. Columbus will be the national standard-bearer of what defines collaborative relationships between professional sports teams and their communities.”

The future of the Crew has been the subject of a battle between owners PSV, which is seeking to take the team to a proposed new stadium in Austin, Texas, and the City of Columbus and State of Ohio, which are fighting to retain the club.

Commenting on the latest developments, MLS commissioner Don Garber said: “We continue to be very encouraged with the significant progress made in Columbus by the Haslam and Edwards families and the Columbus Partnership.

“To ensure the long-term success of Crew SC, and for the club to remain in Columbus, a critical component of our discussions has been plans for a new stadium, as well as increased fan and corporate support.  We hope to see these essential elements finalised soon.”