The City of Columbus announced that MAPFRE stadium would remain relevant as a new Crew SC stadium is being built.
Mayor Andrew Ginther, city and county officials, along with business partners shared the news Wednesday morning.
Soon-to-be owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam, and Dr. Peter Edwards have been working with the city to build a new soccer stadium and repurpose MAPFRE stadium. City leaders said they worried about Mapfre Stadium becoming an eyesore had the team moved to Texas.
“It was real. It wasn’t just a threat," Ginther said. "Had the Crew left, we would be standing in the largest vacant and abandoned property in this community.”
Ginther says the city has committed funds for infrastructure and land for a new stadium, and Franklin County will be contributing money as well. Ginther says Crew SC would play in MAPFRE Stadium for the next two seasons as a new stadium is built.
“Do we want it to be an old dinosaur sitting here in this important part of town or could we repurpose it and do something very, very special," said Alex Fischer with the Columbus Partnership who has been part of the ongoing negotiations to keep the team in Columbus.
The site of the new stadium has yet to be unveiled.
Once the new stadium is complete, MAPFRE Stadium would become the team's new practice field.
“We are excited about the possibilities of new ownership of the Columbus Crew and all that will bring to the City. Part of that plan must include reimagining the existing stadium, so we are investing in a community sports complex that will serve the people of Columbus,” said Ginther. “Nearly 200,000 residents live within three miles of this location. It will benefit residents of all ages and strengthen the connection between the soccer club and the City.”
The area around the new stadium would become the Columbus Community Sports Park, a shared-use center with an indoor soccer field and basketball courts, tournament-level outdoor athletic fields and programming spaces for multigenerational activities.
“This is going to be a place 365 days a year that you could have a pickup soccer game and that pickup soccer game might be within eye shot of the Crew doing practices on an afternoon," Fischer said.
Ginther said the city would pay the "overwhelming majority" of the $50 million it will cost to create the new complex at Mapfre Stadium. He said taxpayers would not be paying for the new stadium for the team though.
“This is really going to become a crown jewel for families in this region and also attract some top-flight high school and possibly collegiate competition on some of these fields," Ginther said.
Team officials are expected to make an announcement Thursday at noon about where the new stadium for the Crew will be built. Part of the potential deal to sell the team to the Haslam and Edwards family has included a stadium closer to downtown.
A public hearing regarding plans was scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 6, in Council Chambers on the Mapfre Stadium plan. City Council is expected to discuss the plans Dec. 10.
This story will continue to be updated.