New Soccer Stadium Proposed in Downtown Columbus
While talks between City leaders and Columbus Crew SC ownership have stalled out, leadership at The Columbus Foundation has reignited efforts to keep the soccer team playing in Columbus for years to come. A preliminary plan to develop “Spirit Park” was unveiled yesterday, which outlines a multipurpose facility that would bring a new soccer arena (and more) to Downtown Columbus.
“We are a smart and open community, and, when challenged, it is best if we show ourselves at our best, our most creative, our most understanding,” stated Columbus Foundation CEO Doug Kridler in an open letter published yesterday. “In addition to the necessary frank and tough talk that is happening right now, I believe progress on this issue will be aided through positive idea generation and the invitation for many hands to help build a sustainable solution.”
The proposal focuses on an approximately 17.5 acre site on the north end of Downtown, currently owned by Abbott Manufacturing, and calls for the construction of a new 21,000-seat soccer arena, parking garage, 350-seat Columbus Children’s Theater and additional supporting developments. The stadium would be intrinsically linked to Nationwide Arena and Huntington Park with frontages that all face Nationwide Boulevard / Mount Vernon Avenue (which the proposal refers to as the “Avenue of Champions”).
In addition to retaining the Crew, the proposal states that it would accomplish multiple other goals. Those include the further enhancement of Downtown Columbus, a strengthening of the campus vibrancy at Columbus State Community College and the Columbus College of Art and Design, and fulfilling the need for a new venue for children’s cultural programming.
City leaders have made clear over the last few months that they do not support any solutions that would provide a handout to Crew SC owner Anthony Precourt at a large expense to local taxpayers. The Spirit Park proposal includes a shared funding model with eight components:
- The Columbus Downtown Development Corporation (CDDC) would purchase a six-month option on the property for $500,000, and The Columbus Foundation would consider a grant to CDDC to cover the cost. Abbott would be asked to donate half of the option price to the Nutrition program at the new Columbus State Culinary School.
- Franklin County would be asked to allocate one half of the existing quarter cent sales tax set to expire on January 1st, 2019, for a period of three years.
- The City of Columbus would be asked to support a funding mechanism that would build the parking garage and other infrastructure around the site.
- The State of Ohio would be asked to set aside $5 million of the State Capital Budget specifically for the children’s arts facility.
- Private partner BrewDog would be tasked with leading a crowdfunding campaign to purchase at least 10 percent ownership of the team.
- Existing team owner Precourt Sports would be asked to commit to covering the cost of the stadium not covered by the allocation of a 1/8 penny sales tax over three years.
- The local business community would be asked to help increase season ticket sales by 4,000 tickets by 2020 season, and supporting the venture financially through naming rights, jersey sponsorship, and fundraising for the children’s cultural center.
- Lastly, the general public would also be tasked with buying more season tickets and supporting fundraising efforts for the cultural facility.
While the proposal is still very preliminary (it comes with a disclaimer that it is simply a “creative exercise” created with the purpose of “sparking our civic imagination”), it also comes with a lot of thoughtfulness from local leadership capable of rallying locals to accomplish big goals through collaborative spirit.
Stay tuned to CU for additional updates.
EXTRA: Tune into this archived episode of The Confluence Cast from February 2017 to learn more about the role of The Columbus Foundation in our community: