After a grassroots campaign to keep the Columbus Crew from moving, the team's new owners are working on their plan to build a new stadium and turn the old one into a practice facility and community sports park.
This week, the city released more details on public funding for the Columbus Crew, including how money will be spent and when. In an aspirational draft agreement, Columbus outlines how different government and private agencies will "Save the Crew."
Who's Paying For The Stadium?
The document says funding from the state, Franklin County and the city of Columbus will total to $140 million.
“The city will be contributing $12 million in infrastructure around the new stadium," says Columbus development director Steve Shoeny.
The agreement notes some of the city’s $50 million total contribution may be for land acquisition, although he does not anticipate that will happen.
“And then we’ll be putting in the balance, the remaining $38 million in payments, into what we’re calling this New Community Authority,” Shoeny says.
The NCA will be a joint public-private group that will be governed by a nine-member board. The city and county will appoint five members, and the development group will appoint four.
Shoeny says the NCA looks like a tax, which makes it look like a public contribution. But he says it instead opens a pathway to produce more money.
“It’s the ownership group voluntarily self-assessing themselves this charge on the development that’s gonna happen around the project,” Shoeny says. “In the original MOU [memorandum of understanding] there was a $45 million in other public funds that was flagged as a placeholder as we’ve gotten into this.”
Shoeny says the new draft agreement decreases public risk, since the burden to generate the money shifts to the development group, not a public entity. The NCA will have the power to tax mixed-use developments near the stadium.
What About The Land?
That's still a challenge for the team owners. Back in December, Columbus leaders announced the creation of Confluence Village, a combined residential and business park just west of the Arena District. A 430,000 sq. ft. stadium would sit at the center of the development.
However, Nationwide Reality Investors has not yet sold the land to the Haslam Sports Group, which bought the Columbus Crew in December. Vice President Ted Tywang says they’re still in the process of cementing that purchase.
“We are close to finalizing a transaction for the land. We expect that to be wrapped up very soon,” Tywang says. “Likely the next couple of weeks, I think.”
Even so, Tywang says they’ve been able to do some work on the stadium land.
“We do have access agreements for the city piece and the NRI site right now,” Tywang says. “So we are doing some kind of remediation work that has begun.”
What Will Happen To MAPFRE Stadium?
There are no plans set in stone yet for the present MAPFRE Stadium. In December, stakeholders also announced they hope to convert the old stadium – built in 1999 as the first soccer-specific stadium in the United States – into a community sports park and practice facility for the Crew.
Tywang says Haslam Sports Group met with the Ohio Expo Commission last week to present its concept for the repurposed use of the stadium.
“That’s a training facility for the Crew, as well as this community sports park. It should be a great community asset,” Tywang says. “Nothing has been finalized and those discussions are ongoing.”
The price tag for MAPFRE's redevelopment was $100 million.
What's The Timeline Look Like?
The target date for a land-purchase agreement with Nationwide Realty Investors is August 15. Tywang says it’s not a hard deadline.
“That August 15 date is a target, and in the agreement there is flexibility built in there in case for some reason the county funding process takes a little bit longer,” Tywang says. “We certainly don’t anticipate it slipping more than a month or two.”
Team owners now expect the new stadium to open in July 2021. It’s the most concrete date the group has offered.
Stakeholders will present the plan to Columbus City Council next Monday, June 24, and Council expects to vote on the financing measures the following Monday, July 1.