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#SaveTheCrew Plan: $645 Million To Buy Columbus Crew, Build Stadium

Crew stadium rendering [City of Columbus]

If the Columbus Crew stay in town, they could move from MAPFRE Stadium to a new, $230 million stadium in the Arena District.

During an event Thursday at Land Grant Brewing, Columbus leaders and #SaveTheCrew advocates detailed their proposal for a “Confluence Village” combining office and residential space. The 20,000-seat stadium would sit on 33 acres originally intended for a downtown casino.

Cleveland Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam and Columbus doctor Peter Edwards, Jr. are currently working with local investors to buy the Crew from owner Precourt Sports Ventures. The total price tag, which was unveiled on Thursday, would be $645 million.

Of that sum, $150 million from investors would go toward buying the team. The rest would pay for recently-announced renovations at MAPFRE Stadium and for building the new stadium downtown.

“We are thrilled with the tremendous progress that has been achieved in this short period of time to keep the Crew in Columbus while creating a long-term plan that will greatly benefit the community,” said the Edwards and Haslam families in a statement.

On the public side, the city of Columbus pledged $50 million for developing the stadium site’s infrastructure, but specifies that city money will not go toward building the stadium itself. Franklin County pledged an additional $50 million for the stadium project.

The new contract would specify the team cannot leave Columbus.

Crew owner Anthony Precourt announced last year his intention to move the team to Austin, Texas, barring construction of a new downtown stadium. Attorney General Mike DeWine led a lawsuit against Precourt to stop the move, citing a state law. The so-called "Modell Law," named after Art Modell who moved the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore, blocks sports teams playing in a publicly-funded stadium from leaving town without giving locals a chance to purchase it.

At Land Grant, governor-elect DeWine took to the stage for a sort of victory lap, clad in a black and yellow scarf.

“The idea was to buy some time as well,” DeWine said. “We did that.”

Earlier this week, a Franklin County judge ruled that the "Modell Law" suit against the Crew can continue. Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein, who teamed with DeWine’s office on the lawsuit, was also in a jubilant mood.

“Only in the city of Columbus can you stop a professional sports franchise from moving from one city to another,” proclaimed Klein. “Where’s ESPN, is ESPN here?”

According to the city, Confluence Village would feature 270,000 sq. ft. of commercial and office space accommodating up to 1,300 employees. It would also boast 885 residential units, at least 20 percent of which would be considered “affordable.”

The stadium itself would be 430,000 sq. ft., including 1,900 club seats and 30 suites. It would also include a wrap-around roof, a major element that MAPFRE lacks.

The announcement came just two days after Mayor Andrew Ginther and Columbus City Council outlined their future plans for MAPFRE Stadium, where the Crew would play for two years before moving into the new space.

Under the $100 million plan, MAPFRE would be converted into the Columbus Community Sports Park. As well as hosting a training facility for the Crew, it would include indoor basketball courts, an indoor turf field, outdoor athletic fields, and two MLS-level practice fields.

When MAPFRE was built in 1999, it was the first soccer-specific stadium in the country. But when Crew owner Anthony Precourt announced his plans to move the team to Austin last year, he cited the need for a new downtown stadium. MAPFRE currently sits between Linden, the university district and the Ohio State Fairgrounds.

A meeting about the Crew plan will be held at Columbus City Council chambers on Thursday night at 6 p.m.

Copyright 2018 WOSU 89.7 NPR News. To see more, visit WOSU 89.7 NPR News.