An interesting note in Columbus Business First lead me to a Cleveland.com report that the City of Columbus and the Columbus Partnership are pushing to land the Cleveland Browns' training camp. Certainly not Crew related on the face of it, but the team may play a long term role in landing the Browns as part of building a new training facility anchored by the Crew and the Academy.
The push is being lead by the Columbus Partnership CEO Alex Fischer. Crew Investor Operator Anthony Precourt is also a member of the Columbus Partnership.
The initial proposal has the Browns possibly training at Ohio Dominican University, but longer term the team might have other options, from the Cleveland.com story:
Greater Columbus Sports Commission executive director Linda Shetina Logan told cleveland.com Ohio Dominican University is one place under consideration. Another possibility is eventually building a facility, which also could be used by the Columbus Crew, the city's MLS entry, and area youth soccer organizations.
This would fit within the Crew's priorities regarding facilities. Several people in the front office have mentioned that near term goals are commitments to Columbus Crew Stadium and Obetz, but in the mid-term the team will need to make decisions on both facilities. That likely means upgrades at Crew Stadium, but the decision isn't as clear on the Obetz Training Facility.
Obetz was built in 1997 when MLS rosters were smaller and there were no Academy teams to consider. The locker room facilities barely keep up with the current senior roster and the two fields allow for first team training, but the addition of Academy games and training has taxed the playing surface.
The team has tried to replace Obetz in the past and were working with area municipalities in 2008, but the economic downturn delayed those plans. In 2013, the team talked about possibly moving training north of the city to southern Delaware County at the 36/37 interchange on I-71 near a proposed outlet mall, but the move would depend on building out infrastructure at the site.
Site selection has been a challenge in the past. Similar facilities in Dallas and Denver boast over a dozen fields in the complex. The Crew have spoken in the past of a desire to have an indoor practice field included in the facility. The addition of the Browns to the proposed training facility might just restart the long delayed project.
The team's training complex plans still face hurdles. Even if Cleveland choose to move their camp from suburban Berea, there is certainly stiff competition for the Browns training camp as the University of Akron is another contender. Additionally, the Columbus Partnership's proposal provides several options, only one of which is a new training facility.
The Crew declined to comment about the reports and previously team officials have been reluctant to discuss details on any facilities plans. The Columbus Partnership's proposal does suggest that the team is working to move the issue forward.