Columbus Crew break ground on new stadium, seal land deal

Major League Soccer franchise Columbus Crew has staged a groundbreaking ceremony for its new downtown stadium, with the event taking place just hours after owners completed the acquisition of land on which it will sit.

The Crew yesterday (Thursday) announced that it had reached an agreement with Nationwide Realty Investors to purchase the land. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but a Crew spokesman told local media outlet WOSU that the purchase price was approximately $25.7m (£20.3m/€23.2m).

A statement released by the team read: “Columbus Crew SC and Nationwide Realty Investors are pleased to share that, as anticipated, all contract contingencies have been waived and the pending purchase of the land will close by the end of the month. Crew SC continues to have full access to the site, and remains on schedule for a summer 2021 opening in the new Arena District stadium.”

Thursday’s groundbreaking event came almost a year to the day that confirmation was received that the Crew would be staying in Columbus. The Crew’s stadium plans are being led by Dee and Jimmy Haslam, who assumed ownership of the franchise at the end of 2018.

The club had previously been owned by Precourt Sports Ventures (PSV), which had sought to take the team to a proposed new stadium in Austin, Texas. PSV has since become the investor-operator of Austin FC, which was announced as the 27th MLS franchise in January. Austin FC, which is set to begin playing in MLS in 2021, broke ground on its new 20,500-seat stadium last month.

The Crew last month unveiled renderings for its new $300m stadium, with the ground to serve as the centrepiece of a wide-ranging ‘Confluence Village’. The team owners have increased their investment in the new stadium by $70m to enhance the facilities on offer.

“We want this to be so cool that everybody thinks it’s cool,” Crew co-owner Dr. Pete Edwards said yesterday, according to the ABC 6 website. “When we see something, and they say, ‘that’s going to cost a little bit more money’, we kind of look at each other and say, ‘we want this to be the best and if it’s just a little bit more of an investment on our part, we’re willing to make that.’”

The Crew currently plays at Mapfre Stadium, which is set to be turned into the Columbus Community Sports Park once the new ground opens. Mapfre Stadium opened in 1999 and was the first soccer-specific stadium built for an MLS team.

Image: Columbus Crew