Columbus stadium deal gets approval from city council

The Columbus city council was in a giving mood on Monday.

It approved a ticket tax to pay for renovations to the city's NHL arena, Nationwide Arena, and fund arts projects, but also a memorandum of understanding with the proposed new owners of the Columbus Crew on plans for a $230 million, 20,000-capacity soccer stadium as part of a bigger mixed-use development site in the Arena District.

That puts Columbus one step closer to keeping the Crew in the city. Fourteen months ago, the owner Anthony Precourt announced plans to explore a move to Austin if a new home for the team wasn't found in Columbus. Precourt has since secured a stadium agreement in Austin, and new owners were found to keep the Crew in Columbus, where it has played since 1996.

By a 6-0 vote, the city council approved the memorandum of understanding with the new ownership group led by Dee and Jimmy Haslam and Pete Edwards, Jr. for the city to contribute $50 million for work related to the soccer stadium -- improvements for site development and infrastructure -- and turn Mapfre Stadium, the Crew's home since Lamar Hunt opened it in 1999, into the Columbus Community Sports Park, a recreational hub.

The soccer stadium -- which the new Crew owners will pay for -- will replace Mapfre Stadium and be part of a development on 33 acres that would include a riverfront park and 885 residences as well as private commercial and office space for up to 1,300 employees.

The deal also needs the approval of Franklin County by MLS's Dec. 31 deadline. County commissioners are expected to shortly approve pledging $50 million of county funds toward the project.

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