On Wednesday, City of Columbus officials released a letter detailing what they presented to Major League Soccer and Precourt Sports Ventures at the joint meeting Nov. 15 between league commissioner Don Garber, Columbus Crew SC owner Anthony Precourt, Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther and Columbus Partnership President and CEO Alex Fischer.
The letter also requested that Columbus not be “pitted against another city,” but the battle may have already begun. At least that is the way Bret Adams, a longtime Columbus attorney and sports agent, sees it.
“(Ginther and Fischer) are delusional if they believe that they’re not in a bidding war right now with Austin, Texas,” Adams said.
The letter, which included the signatures of Ginther and Fischer, named three publicly-owned sites for a potential new stadium for the soccer club.
The sites named were Berliner Park, a 200-acre property southwest of downtown with an “option for a riverfront location;” Dodge Recreation Center, which sits on 16 acres near the intersections of Interstates 71 and 70 in Franklinton, “a neighborhood seeing amazing growth and revitalization” near downtown; and redevelopment of the Ohio Expo Center and State Fair, where MAPFRE Stadium is currently.
The letter also mentioned “feasible privately-owned spaces Downtown” which could create a “stadium central” with “three professional sports arenas.” No locations were named specifically and, reached for comment on Thursday, the Mayor’s office declined to confirm or deny the privately-owned sites.
Nationwide Realty, the real estate development affiliate of Nationwide Insurance, owns 40 acres yet to be developed in the Arena District — the area of downtown which is home to the Columbus Blue Jackets (NHL) and the Columbus Clippers (AAA baseball). Nationwide did not return calls from the American-Statesman on Thursday.
Even if Nationwide and the city are working privately on an offer for the site, Ginther and Fischer suggested in the letter that none of its proposals would be achievable as long as Austin is still being pursued.
“We ask you to reconsider working exclusively and collaboratively with us to advance our mutual interest,” the letter said.
The Nationwide Realty-owned location is one that Adams has previously pointed to as a potential solution for keeping the team in Columbus, much better than the locations named in the letter.
“I have no doubt as to the sincerity of the Ginther and Fischer letter but it will fall upon deaf ears as it offers nothing that Precourt is seeking. I fail to understand why city leaders do not understand the ask from Precourt as he has publicly made it clear numerous times. He doesn’t want inaccessible park land and he doesn’t want local equity investment, especially investment (proposed) in the letter that comes with pre-conditions,” Adams said.
“He wants assistance to build a downtown stadium and he wants corporate leaders to step up with naming rights and corporate sponsorship. Berliner Park is simply Crew Stadium South, that was simply an embarrassing offer of land and the other sites are no better.”
Precourt Sports Ventures issued a statement to the American-Statesman responding to the letter from Ginther and Fischer.
“Precourt Sports Ventures received and has read the letter distributed by Columbus Mayor Ginther and Alex Fischer. As noted two weeks ago, PSV remains open to productive dialogue should the City of Columbus choose to re-engage with PSV.”
Meanwhile, Austin continues to work toward identifying potential sites for a stadium and training facility. A staff report assessing city-owned property will be discussed at the Austin City Council meeting on Dec. 14.
On the field, Crew SC finished its 2017 season on Wednesday with a 1-0 loss to Toronto FC in the Eastern Conference finals. PSV has said the team will remain in Columbus through the 2018 season. Beyond that, it’s anybody’s guess.
“Until Ginther and Fischer understand what Precourt is asking and react with solutions, enjoy the last season at MAPFRE Stadium,” Adams said.