In a move that could set up a legal battle to keep the Crew SC in Columbus, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said if the ownership tries to move the team without complying with Ohio law, he's prepared to take necessary legal action.
State Representative Mike Duffey, from the Worthington area, asked DeWine to consider legal action under a law named after Art Modell. Duffey said this law was created to stop professional sports teams, who are supported bytaxpayers, from moving to another state. It came after Modell moved the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore.
In a statement Thursday afternoon the Attorney General said after reviewing the Ohio Revised Code, they "believe the evidence will show that this law would apply to the Columbus Crew and Mapfre Stadium. As Attorney General should ownership of the Columbus Crew initiate a move of the team without complying with Ohio law, I am prepared to take the necessary legal action under this law to protect the interests of the state of Ohio and the central Ohio communities which have all invested to make the Columbus Crew a proud part of our Ohio sports tradition..."
Under the law, a tax-supported facility can't move unless they get the permission of the city in which they're located or give 6 months notice and for the opportunity for the city or inhabitants in the area to purchase the team.
The Attorney General's announcement comes just hours after the Precourt Sports Ventures, the organization run by Crew SC owner Anthony Precourt, unveiled its proposal for a stadium in downtown Austin. The stadium would be located on the Colorado River where there is currently several Little League baseball fields.
"They can do as many stadium renderings in Austin as they want, it won't change a single thing from a 'Save the Crew' perspective," said Morgan Hughes, a diehard Crew supporter who has led the Save the Crew movement. "We are still focused on saving this team and keeping this asset in the community."
Officials with the City of Austin said they had not received a proposal from Precourt Sports Ventures for any downtown stadium. City officials have been looking at other sites. The Austin City Council is expected to discuss the proposal at its meeting next week.
“We are hopeful there will be several sites considered by city staff for the stadium and practice facility," Richard Suttle said in a statement. Suttle is an Austin attorney hired by the Crew SC. "While there may be others, our initial thought is 200 South Lamar seems virtually perfect for a modern, urban Major League Soccer (MLS) soccer stadium as long as it is compact and designed with minimum traffic, light and sound impact as a priority."
A spokesman for Precourt Sports Ventures said there was no update on the team staying in Columbus. Precourt has said in the past he would keep the team in Columbus if the team could move to a downtown stadium. His spokesman said Columbus City officials have stopped talking to them.
"While PSV was told last month by Columbus officials that the City of Columbus would not be communicating further with PSV, we remain committed to exploring strategic options as we have communicated, which can include meaningful and constructive dialogue with Columbus leaders," Precourt Sports Ventures said in a statement.
A spokesman for Mayor Andy Ginther said city officials never said that.
"Mayor Ginther has said repeatedly that the City of Columbus stands ready, willing and able to support the success of Columbus Crew SC in Columbus," Ginther's spokesperson Robin Davis said in a statement. "We have asked Mr. Precourt to work exclusively and collaboratively with us in identifying his needs as the owner. He laid out everything for Austin, but he did not do the same for Columbus. It is clear he never seriously considered staying here."