Columbus Crew SC might be leaving MAPFRE Stadium after the deal that will see a new ownership group purchasing the team is completed, but the venue will ideally continue to be a home to the Black & Gold in a different capacity. On Wednesday Columbus city leaders, including Mayor Andrew Ginther and Columbus Partnership President and CEO Alex Fischer, announced plans to build a sports complex, which would include the team’s new training facility, on the grounds currently occupied by the stadium.
“As those negotiations (to keep the Crew in Columbus) have progressed, we’ve been faced with the same dilemma: what happens to MAPFRE,” Ginther said at the press conference at MAPFRE Stadium. “Today I’m happy to announce those plans. Once a new stadium is built, we will transform this into the Columbus Community Sports Park and the Crew’s new training facility.”
The Community Sports Park, as it is currently imagined, will feature 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 for community use.
One major benefit of this proposed use of the MAPFRE Stadium, and one that was stressed at the Wednesday press conference, is the space will be open to the local community and is expected to benefit up to 200,000 people who live within three miles from the area. That includes the neighborhoods of Linden, North Columbus, the University District and Weinland Park, among others.
“Imagine sports teams playing throughout the year in that beautiful stadium under those lights,” Fischer said pointing out the window to Crew SC’s current home field. “Imagine citizens of this community coming into this room and other rooms like it and using it 24/7. That will be how we’ll activate... It’s not hard to imagine this entire part of the city transformed into something I think is going to have impact in communities and even more impact in the economic development, bringing visitors to our community combined with serving the needs of a practice facility of a team.”
Construction on this facility would start after the new stadium is built by the team’s new ownership group and is estimated to take 18-24 months. In the meantime, Crew SC would continue to play its home games in the friendly confines of MAPFRE Stadium.
This announcement is a very good sign for the Save The Crew Movement that hardly existed just over a year ago. But it is just the first step. As it as made clear at the press conference, there is still a ways to go to keep the Crew in Columbus and meet MLS’s deadline of the end of the year.
“We are moving closer and closer to a change in ownership that will keep the Columbus Crew where they rightfully belong, right here in Columbus,” Ginther said, “I’m grateful to Haslam and Edwards families, to Alex Fischer and to all of the incredible fans and residents of this community who have come together to keep the Crew in Columbus.”