Fourteen months after it looked like the
Columbus Crew was leaving town, an agreement in principle has been reached to keep the MLS team in Columbus.
Jimmy and Dee Haslams, the owners of the Cleveland Browns, and partner Pete Edwards, a Crew team doctor, will assume an ownership position in MLS and operate Crew SC, starting in January.
In October 2017, it was revealed Columbus Crew owner Anthony Precourt was exploring a move to Austin. Precourt Sports Ventures recently finalized a lease agreement with the city of Austin on a site for a stadium that it will build on 24 acres of city-owned land in North Austin.
Since MLS confirmed that the Haslam family and the Columbus-based Edwards family were in negotiations with the league to buy the Crew, an agreement was reached with the city of Columbus, Franklin County and the state of Ohio on a 20,000-seat soccer stadium as part of a mixed-used development in the Arena District and redevelopment of the area around Mapfre Stadium, the current home of the Crew, into a recreational sports park.
"While we work to finalize the deal promptly," said MLS commissioner Don Garber, "we want to state publicly the tremendous collaboration and community support for Crew SC, which has set the stage for a powerful plan that includes a world-class soccer stadium -- a critical step that will help ensure the club’s success on and off the field."
The $230 million 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 cost of the total project is an estimated $635 million.
“Throughout our conversations," the new owners said in a statement, "it’s been overwhelmingly clear that Crew SC belongs in Columbus, and we are thrilled to have reached an agreement in principle to assume an ownership position in Major League Soccer and to operate Columbus Crew SC. As the stewards of Crew SC, we will always be focused on building a championship caliber team that makes the city proud, creating dynamic and memorable fan experiences and deeply engaging the community to make a positive impact.”
The announcement came as Ohio attorney general Mike DeWine -- soon to be Ohio governor -- and Columbus city attorney Zach Klein are dismissing without prejudice a suit brought against MLS and PSV for violation of the so-called “Art Modell Law” intended to halt the Crew's flight from Ohio.
“From the start, this litigation was about keeping the Crew in Columbus, and I believe we are finally there,” said Klein. “I can’t thank #SaveTheCrew enough for having my back as we did the unexpected -- we saved the Crew."