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Columbus Leaders Pen Open Letter to Crew Ownership to Discuss Partnership

Walker Evans Walker Evans Columbus Leaders Pen Open Letter to Crew Ownership to Discuss PartnershipPhoto by Matt Ellis.
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Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther released the following statement today to show continued support for retaining the Columbus Crew SC soccer team in the city. The full letter — signed by both Ginther and Columbus Partnership CEO Alex Fischer — can also be found below.

About the Crew

Successful community investments are done through partnerships. Smart Columbus, Scioto Greenways, Columbus Commons, the Reeb Center, American Museum on Natural History and the National Veterans Memorial Museum are all examples of public and private entity’s ability to collaborate.

The Columbus Crew SC could be another such success. The business community, loyal fan base and public institutions stand ready to begin turning this partnership into a reality.

Today, Alex Fischer, President and CEO of the Columbus Partnership, and I sent a letter to MLS and owner Anthony Precourt, recapping our discussion in New York.

Imagine a bustling “stadium central” Downtown, with three professional sports arenas right in the heart of the city. Or envision a riverfront stadium on the Southwest Side, with ample park land to develop. Or what if we started fresh where the stadium is now, with a new state-of-the-art stadium adjacent to a destination entertainment district? And picture if the Crew was partly owned by the fans – the lifeblood of the team’s support.

But partnerships are a two-way street. We need a commitment from the Crew owner and MLS to keep the team in Columbus. We need to be able to operate in a good-faith environment – not compete with another city for the financial gain of the owner.

I believe in the Columbus Crew SC – and I believe they belong right here, in the capital of Ohio.

I believe there is a collaborative solution that works for everyone involved.

I believe professional soccer has a strong future in Columbus.

I believe. Do you?

The full text of the letter is as follows:

November 29, 2017

Dear Commissioner Garber and Mr. Precourt,

Thank you again for the opportunity to meet with you in New York on November 15, 2017, to discuss the future of the Columbus Crew SC. As you know, Columbus has a rich history of professional soccer. As one of the original Major League Soccer franchise cities and as the city that built the first-ever soccer- specific stadium in the U.S., we believe the team rightfully belongs in Columbus.

It was in this spirit that we came to the meeting prepared to find specific solutions that would achieve this goal. We feel it is now important to deliver a high-level recap of our conversation. As we discussed, the city and business community are committed to keeping the team in Columbus and remain willing to engage in positive discussions about ways our community can help the MLS and Columbus Crew SC leverage the excitement and growth of Columbus.

As you recall, we shared three publically-owned sites for a potential new stadium:

  • Berliner Park: more than 200 acres of city-owned property on the Southwest side of Columbus with easy access to I-71. Just 10 minutes from Downtown Columbus, this site is adjacent to German Village, one of the city’s oldest and most prosperous areas. This location has the option for a riverfront location.
  • Dodge Recreation Center: 16 acres of riverfront city-owned property near the major freeway intersections of I-70 and I-71. In addition, this site is near the heart of a neighborhood seeing amazing growth and revitalization, just minutes from the center of Downtown Columbus.
  • Redevelopment of Ohio Expo Center and State Fair: work with the State of Ohio to revitalize the area around the current Crew SC Stadium, build a world-class soccer stadium on the existing site and connect the area to the heart of the Ohio State University campus through improved access connectors.In addition, Columbus also has a number of feasible privately-owned spaces Downtown that could be sites for a new stadium, creating a “stadium central” in Columbus, with three professional sports arenas.For all of these options, we would partner with private developers to turn the surrounding area into an entertainment district with restaurants, bars and attractive streetscapes.We also offered potential ownership scenarios with an understanding that Mr. Precourt does not wish to sell the team outright. Scenarios include:
  • 50/50 ownership with local investors with commensurate decision-making rights
  • Crowdfunding and shared ownership with local investors in a “Green Bay Packers” model of professional sports
  • Minority investments from strategic partners

All of these ideas still need to be refined, and the details need to be developed with all of the community partners.

We recognize the club also needs assistance strengthening corporate sponsorship, attendance and television ratings. As we have done in the past, we stand ready to assist you in these efforts and know a long-term commitment to Columbus will produce a strong partnership with many entities.

None of the above is achievable if we continue to be pitted against another city. We ask you to reconsider working exclusively and collaboratively with us to advance our mutual interest.

As we have said before, Columbus stands ready, willing and able to make the city a successful venue for the Crew SC.

Sincerely,

Andrew J. Ginther and Alex Fischer
Mayor of Columbus President and CEO of The Columbus Partnership

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