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Opinion: Stadium Issue Should be Solved Collaboratively, not Competitively

Julie George Julie George Opinion: Stadium Issue Should be Solved Collaboratively, not CompetitivelyPhoto by Matt Ellis.
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Despite having never lived through a major war event, I am no stranger to the battlefield. From cable television news desks to campaign podiums to the American Idol stage, my generation has grown up in the midst of the idea that competition is the means to progress.

This week’s announcement from Columbus Crew owner Anthony Precourt only strengthens the notion that competition – rather than collaboration – is the preferred problem-solving strategy. And he’s convinced many of us that a building a Downtown stadium is the only way to win back our beloved soccer team.

The tale of Anthony Precourt is a familiar one. Boost the profitability of his investment by pitting two cities – Austin and Columbus – against each other, letting city officials stretch their budgets to keep or attract their team.

But is this the only way?

Because I am the wife of a long-time season ticket holder who often tags along for the fun of the experience, Crew losses are somber times in our house. The loss of the team from our city would be nothing short of devastating. Yet, the idea of shelling out public funds and tax breaks and other incentives to keep professional soccer in Ohio doesn’t sit well either.

Will Columbus (and Austin, for that matter) recognize that Precourt’s deep pockets may not have their cities’ best interests in mind? That other publicly-funded, community services – like schools, libraries, roads and utilities – aren’t exactly on Precourt’s priority list?

Community runs through the blood of Crew supporters. We chant together, we celebrate our team together, we mourn our losses together. We understand the balance of the game. Eleven players working towards one (literal) goal.

Rather than running onto the field of this Columbus vs. Austin high-stakes match, Columbus leaders should explore their other options – allowing both cities to do what is best for their bottom lines, not Precourt’s. I picture Mayor Ginther sitting down with Mayor Adler, putting together reasonable and realistic offers for each of their cities, while leaving their budgets for other public services untouched. While this type of collaboration is admittedly naïve, our sense of teamwork shouldn’t be left on the field.

Simply put, the health of a city isn’t measured by its ability to appease professional sports owners. The health of our city isn’t measured by its ability to construct a superior bid over another. A city that balances the needs of people, fostering a spirit of collaboration and community, is a city that thrives.

Would the end of the Columbus Crew be hard to swallow? Of course. But knowing my city had the (fut)balls to stand up to Precourt’s bullying and choose to manage the city’s funds strategically rather than give in to the threats of a millionaire would certainly soften the blow. Because in the end, a smart and collaborative approach to this issue is the real victory.

— Julie George

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