New Columbus Crew Stadium Proposal Draws Immediate Skepticism
The CEO of the Columbus Foundation has unveiled an ambitious plan for a new downtown stadium to help keep the Crew SC from moving out of Columbus.
Under the proposal from Doug Kridler, the 21,000-seat Spirit of Columbus Park would sit just between 5th and 6th streets, east of the Arena District. The site, just south of Interstate 670, is currently a parking lot owned by Abbott Manufacturing.
There’s one major catch: The plan is already drawing skepticism from local leaders who would need to sign off. One of the pillars for the stadium’s financing would be extending a temporary county sales tax that’s set to expire on January 1, 2019. Franklin County Commissioner John O'Grady told the Columbus Dispatch commissioners would not entertain such an idea.
The rest of the stadium’s proposed financing relies on a complicated mix of city funding, state money, a crowdfunding campaign backed by craft brewery BrewDog and money from Crew owner Anthony Precourt.
Kridler told the Dispatch he has not taken the plan to business and civic leaders. He says he released it in conjunction with the start of the next phase of the Crew’s playoff run. The soccer club starts the two-game Eastern Conference Finals with Toronto FC Tuesday night inside MAPFRE Stadium.
Precourt announced in October that he’s considering moving the team to Austin, Texas, in 2019 unless a new downtown stadium is built.
That announcement pitted Precourt against Mayor Andrew Ginther and Columbus Partnership CEO Alex Fischer, who said local business leaders put together at least two offers to buy part or all of the franchise. Precourt says he never received any “serious” offers to maintain local ownership of the team.
Precourt met with Ginther and Fischer and MLS Commissioner Don Garber last week. Ginther says he left that meeting “disappointed and frustrated," and he said believes now more than ever that Precourt is not committed to staying in Columbus.
When it opened in 1999, MAPFRE Stadium was the only soccer-specific stadium in Major League Soccer. But it was built cheaply by modern standards and lacks the lucrative corporate sponsorships that owners crave. Precourt says the situation has been made worse by attendance that ranks near the bottom of MLS.