The Columbus Dispatch - - Front Page - Dis­patch Re­porter Marc Lo­vac con­trib­uted to this story. [email protected]­ @Re­porterBush

“We are com­pletely, com­pletely blown away,” said Ja­son Mur­ray, 30, a Short North res­i­dent who skipped work to see the plans un­veiled. “You could tell they de­signed it with us — the sup­port­ers — in mind. They did this for us.”

“It’s ev­ery­thing we could have hoped for and more,” said best friend Ryan Cieply, 31, of Pick­er­ing­ton. “The fan base is re­ju­ve­nated by this, and now we’ll just keep spread­ing the word to new fans that com­ing to a Crew game will be an ex­pe­ri­ence.”

JW John­son, an ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent with the Cleve­land Browns and son-in-law of the Haslams, thanked fans for their grass­roots ef­forts to save the team.

John­son said his fam­ily’s ef­forts were aimed at keep­ing an­other Ohio team from pack­ing up and leav­ing town, as hap­pened to the Browns in 1995.

The mul­ti­level, 20,000seat sta­dium would in­clude 30 suites and loge boxes and 1,900 “club seats,” with an artist’s ren­der­ing en­vi­sion­ing all of the seats cov­ered by a roof but the play­ing field open to the el­e­ments. The sta­dium would be sur­rounded by seven low-rise river­front res­i­den­tial, of­fice and park­ing struc­tures on a to­tal of 33 acres.

Colum­bus Mayor An­drew J. Ginther said the sta­dium would be “a premier fa­cil­ity for Colum­bus,” one that would draw world­wide at­ten­tion for its de­sign and fan ex­pe­ri­ence.

Com­mer­cial and of­fice space would to­tal 270,000 square feet, enough to ac­com­mo­date 1,300 em­ploy­ees. There would be 885 res­i­den­tial units, with a min­i­mum of 20 per­cent of them, or 177, ded­i­cated to “af­ford­able hous­ing.” It was un­clear Thurs­day who would own the sta­dium and the build­ings around it.

Ginther said that the city’s con­tri­bu­tion to the sta­dium would in­clude do­nat­ing land — about 9 acres of which the city owns at the site, ac­cord­ing to county prop­erty records. Five of the city’s acres would be de­voted to a new river­front park along the Olen­tangy River, just north of Con­flu­ence Park and Route 33.

The rest of the pro­posed Con­flu­ence Vil­lage site is owned by Na­tion­wide Realty In­vestors, the real es­tate arm of Na­tion­wide In­sur­ance, which pur­chased 13 parcels from casino de­vel­op­ers The new 20,000-seat Crew SC sta­dium would be built on the site where a casino was once en­vi­sioned. Spec­ta­tors would be cov­ered by a roof. In this artist’s ren­der­ing, I-670, in fore­ground, flows by the new sta­dium devel­op­ment.

Colum­bus Gam­ing Ven­tures in 2011 for $11 mil­lion. Of­fi­cials don’t yet con­trol any of the Na­tion­wide land needed for the project.

Brian J. El­lis, pres­i­dent and chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer of Na­tion­wide Realty In­vestors, is­sued a writ­ten state­ment Thurs­day that the firm “con­tin­ues to en­gage in con­ver­sa­tions re­lated to the po­ten­tial devel­op­ment of a soc­cer sta­dium on our prop­erty,” adding “there is still much more work to be done.”

Alex Fis­cher, pres­i­dent and chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of the Colum­bus Part­ner­ship, which has been deeply in­volved in the project, said dis­cus­sions about the site are “real se­ri­ous” and hinge on which par­ties would de­velop which pieces of the land.

Of­fi­cials started lift­ing the veil on the plan Wed­nes­day when they an­nounced that the Crew would re­main in Colum­bus and con­tinue to use Mapfre Sta­dium for two more years be­fore mov­ing to a new sta­dium as part of a new own­er­ship plan for the pro­fes­sional soc­cer fran­chise. The en­tire deal must

be com­pleted by the end of the year to meet an MLS dead­line, so that the Crew and the league can plan for next sea­son, which be­gins with train­ing in Fe­bru­ary, Fis­cher said.

Sev­eral hours after the an­nounce­ment, more than 100 peo­ple, many clad in Crew scarves, plus a del­e­ga­tion of youth soc­cer play­ers at­tended a hastily sched­uled pub­lic hear­ing on the pro­posal Thurs­day night. Colum­bus City Coun­cil­woman El­iz­a­beth Brown opened the ses­sion with spe­cial thanks to Crew fans.

“It’s clear that ath­let­ics bring peo­ple to­gether,” she said. “What we saw from the Save the Crew fans was in­spir­ing.”

The hear­ing in­cluded pre­sen­ta­tions by Fis­cher, city Au­di­tor Me­gan Kil­gore and other of­fi­cials, who re­capped the de­tails of the Arena District and youth sports com­plex pro­jects pre­sented ear­lier in the day.

About 20 res­i­dents signed up to speak, all of­fer­ing com­ments in fa­vor of the pro­posal. Pas­tor Julius

Lan­caster of I Am Church called it an “awe­some project” with big po­ten­tial for shared com­mu­nity ben­e­fits.

“This is an op­por­tu­nity for us to make a tremen­dous in­vest­ment into the fu­ture of Colum­bus,” he said.

Kelly DeNiro, a soc­cer player, Crew sea­son-ticket holder and Save the Crew sup­porter, said she was ex­cited, hope­ful and proud of the re­sults of ef­forts to save the team.

“This is a true ex­am­ple of how our city is work­ing to ben­e­fit every­one in this com­mu­nity,” she said.

City coun­cil is work­ing to com­plete a for­mal mem­o­ran­dum of un­der­stand­ing on the city’s in­vest­ment, with an eye to­ward adop­tion dur­ing its meet­ing Mon­day.

Asked about the ex­pe­dited time­line, Ginther said the al­ter­na­tive was to lose the Crew and be sad­dled with a va­cant Mapfre.

Kevin Boyce, pres­i­dent of the Franklin County com­mis­sion­ers, said county lead­ers see the county’s con­tri­bu­tion as an in­vest­ment in eco­nomic devel­op­ment.

“You had me at 1,200 jobs cre­ated,” Boyce said about both the con­struc­tion jobs and those an­tic­i­pated to come with the new of­fice and res­i­den­tial build­ings around the sta­dium.

Dee Haslam said ear­lier this week that her fam­ily came later to the Save the Crew move­ment, but felt com­pelled to do some­thing to stop the Crew’s move to Austin.

“We were read­ing about this and thought that this can’t hap­pen in Colum­bus,” she said. “Every­one here said this can be done. We didn’t give up.

“Our fam­ily be­lieves that this team is a com­mu­nity as­set,” Haslam said.

Ed­wards, who has been the Crew team doc­tor since its in­cep­tion, said he is proud to be part of the team that will save the Crew. “I’m so glad to be from Colum­bus,” he said.

“Twenty-five years ago, Colum­bus wasn’t as cool as it is now,” he said, adding that pro­fes­sional soc­cer helped Colum­bus be­come a big-league city. “The Crew helped Colum­bus find its way, and now Colum­bus is help­ing the Crew find its way.”

Fis­cher has said the cul­mi­na­tion of all the var­i­ous pub­lic and pri­vate deals will be the team trans­fer­ring own­er­ship be­fore the end of the month. Ma­jor League Soc­cer has been ne­go­ti­at­ing the sale of the Crew to the Haslam and Ed­wards fam­i­lies for nearly two months.

Present in the first row of seats at the event Thurs­day was Charles Altchek, a vice pres­i­dent with MLS. He didn’t speak.

On Oct. 16, 2017, news broke that the Crew could leave Colum­bus, pos­si­bly for Austin. Ne­go­ti­a­tions to keep the team in Colum­bus be­gan im­me­di­ately and looked bleak for months. The #SaveTheCrew move­ment took to so­cial me­dia and the streets with ac­tual and vir­tual ral­lies that went vi­ral. Ohio At­tor­ney Gen­eral Mike DeWine and City At­tor­ney Zach Klein filed a law­suit based on the state’s “Art Modell Law” that re­quired team own­ers con­tem­plat­ing a move to first give no­tice and a re­al­is­tic op­por­tu­nity for a lo­cal owner to make an of­fer to buy the team. And Fis­cher, Ginther and oth­ers worked be­hind the scenes to con­tinue ne­go­ti­a­tions with MLS.

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