Columbus plans for community sports complex if Crew SC leaves Mapfre Stadium

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Columbus city leaders announced this morning a shared-use, Community Sports Park on the grounds currently occupied by Mapfre Stadium on the North Side. The facility also would serve as the Crew’s training facility and a regional sports tournament complex.

As the potential new Crew SC owners work to complete a deal to buy the team and move it to a new stadium in Columbus, local leaders are working to make sure the team’s current home at Mapfre Stadium won’t fall by the wayside when a new stadium is built.

Columbus city leaders are announcing this morning a shared-use, Community Sports Park on the grounds currently occupied by Mapfre Stadium on the North Side. The facility also would serve as the Crew’s training facility and a regional sports tournament complex.

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The Community Sports Park would benefit the neighborhoods surrounding the stadium, such as Linden, North Columbus, the University District, Weinland Park and more, leaders said. It will increase park access to the more than 200,000 residents who live within three miles of the facility and provide more space for city-wide programming.

The envisioned sports park, which the city would pay to develop, would include indoor community programming spaces, eight indoor basketball courts, a full-size indoor soccer field, at least six outdoor athletic fields, two MLS-level practice fields, and additional green space.

“We will adapt and reuse Mapfre Stadium and transform the site to benefit the entire community,” said Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther.

The facility would be a regional destination for sought-after tournaments and events, Ginther said, calling the envisioned facility a “premier destination for youth sports in Columbus.”

An Oct. 12 Major League Soccer announcement signaled that the league was committed to keeping the Crew in Columbus so long as efforts by Cleveland Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam and the Edwards family of Columbus to purchase the team continued to progress.

Columbus Partnership CEO Alex Fischer said the ownership group has “made great progress with their negotiations,” and are working to finalize the sale by the end of the year, a deadline stipulated by MLS. A purchase price on the team could be around $150 million, he said.

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That deadline isn’t without reason. The Crew must hire a new head coach following the departure of Gregg Berhalter, and preseason training begins in February.

Sources have previously told The Dispatch that the most likely purchase scenario involves the local investors purchasing Columbus MLS rights from the league and current Crew operator Precourt Sports Ventures transferring its equity interest in the league to a franchise in Austin, Texas.

Should the deal be finalized and a new stadium is developed as a result, work on the community facility announced Wednesday would begin after the new stadium is built by Crew SC ownership. Construction of the Community Sports Park is estimated to take about 18-24 months.

The Crew leases the Ohio State Fairgrounds land where Mapfre sits from the state, and the city is currently talking with state officials regarding the site.

“The Crew leaving this stadium was not a threat; it was real,” Ginther told The Dispatch. “That stadium would have become one of the largest vacant and abandoned structures in the community at a time when, collectively, we are doubling down on neighborhood redevelopment and investment. We could not walk away from this stadium as part of any public-private partnership moving forward.”

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