The Downtown Commission approved plans on Tuesday to demolish nine buildings to make way for the new downtown Columbus Crew SC stadium. The new ownership group, led by the Haslam Family who owns the Cleveland Browns, announced it would buy the team in late 2018 and build a new stadium downtown to prevent the franchise from moving to Austin, TX.
The buildings set for demolition included garages, a salt barn, and a boat launch station.
“It shows progress as we move forward with these plans for the stadium," said Philip Dangerfield, the vice president of operations for the Haslam Sports Group. "We’re really excited to be breaking ground this fall and completing the stadium in the summer of 2021.”
The team has struggled with attendance for years, frequently among the lowest average attendance figures in Major League Soccer. Fans have said for years a better atmosphere downtown would boost attendance.
“It’s something we’ve been waiting and talking about and dreaming out for many years," said Crew SC supporter John Zidar, who was part of the Save the Crew movement. “It’s nice to have options of restaurants to get lunch beforehand or dinner afterwards or grab drinks with friends to celebrate a victory and you just can’t do that up there.”
The proposed downtown stadium would cost roughly $230 million and seat 20,000 people. The site is west of the Arena District, along Nationwide Boulevard. The site is mostly empty except for a few vacant buildings near the Olentangy River. The City of Columbus will spend millions of dollars for infrastructure improvements in the area to facilitate the new stadium.
The City of Columbus will also use taxpayer money to convert Mapfre Stadium, home of the team for more than 20 years, into a training facility and a community park.
“How are people going to get to this island of an arena where very few people are going to begin with," said Michael Gonidakis, a vocal critic of taxpayers subsidizing professional sports teams. "When you look at all of the factors that go into this, this is going to be a financial disaster for the taxpayers because we own it.”
The Crew SC still doesn't own the property where the stadium will be built. Team officials said they expect a deal to be finalized soon. They said the owner of the site, Nationwide Realty Investors, had given them continued access to the area to help the club stay on its original timeline.
Team officials will be presenting a "more detailed architectural plan" to the downtown commission in September.
ABC 6/FOX 28 will continue to follow the latest surrounding the new stadium.