Economic Development Agreement Sets Up Race to Start New Stadium for Columbus Crew

The Columbus Crew were officially saved back in December 2018, when the new ownership group was announced, but there are still a few loose ends to tie up. Mainly, construction of an expansive new stadium and training complex. As it turns out, they may still have some ways to go on that front, as apparently there are still some land purchases that need to be made.

That aside, things look to be moving towards a conclusion, as the Economic Development Agreement (EDA going forward) was recently released which outlines the terms for developing a new stadium and training complex. There is still a separate lease agreement to be agreed to as well, which will govern things like relocation language (you can bet that will be a part of this deal) and the like. But I figured I’d summarize the EDA in advance of its consideration before that Columbus City Council. The EDA has already been agreed to by the Crew/MLS, and is scheduled to go before the City on June 24 and July 1 so they can authorize its signature.

  • The Crew are (were?) an “expansion team,” whatever that means:

This was the subject of some chatter as the “Save the Crew” movement generally was winding down. Because Anthony Precourt already had an existing ownership stake in MLS via the Crew, when he decided to move his talents to Austin to operate there, some wondered who was going to be the “new” team? Turns out it’s Columbus, though they’ll be (27) years older by the time Austin starts playing.

The Crew are technically an “expansion team.”

This was likely done as an accounting maneuver, and means exactly zilch in sporting terms, but an interesting bit of trivia nonetheless.

  • “Authority” will own various sites and lease them to Crew/MLS:

Not surprisingly, a NCA (“Authority”) will own the stadium project, sports park, stadium and training complex and lease them to the Crew/MLS for operation, on terms that will be released later. Pretty standard, and allows the Crew not to have to pay taxes on the sites. It should be noted that the City itself will own certain parcels of land.

  • Relocation language will be included in the stadium lease:

I’m sure Crew fans are especially interested in this, in the wake of the fight over the so-called Modell Law. An easier way to avoid a similar fight in the future (aside from having owners who actually want to be in the city in which they are operating the team) is to include relocation language in the lease. That will drafted at a later date (actually I’m fairly sure it already has), after the “Authority” is created.

You can bet the relocation language will be sufficiently strong (think, “Chicago Fire”) to preclude any thought of moving the team during the life of the lease.

  • City, Crew/MLS dividing up remediation costs:

It looks like the parties are splitting the check on any environmental cleanup. I haven’t heard anything about these costs being exorbitant (coughMiamicough), and a source tells me aside from some cleanup of gas/salt, it’s not much of a thing.

  • Parties will handle stadium development, infrastructure and sports park independently:

Well, they’ll obviously be consulting with each other on the respective projects, but each party will have separate responsibilities in the construction/development of the “complex.” Crew/MLS will handle the stadium, while the City/Authority will handle the surrounding infrastructure and sports park.

  • Funding and proposed schedule:

The public cost has caused a bit of heartburn, as the estimated public contribution is expected to be about $140 million. However, that lines up with the estimates when the MOU was ratified last year.

Funding estimate and schedule

The MOU had the public contribution at $140 million, so I’m not sure what the news is specifically here.

Description of public contribution in MOU.
  • Crew/MLS responsible for stadium cost overruns; City/NCA responsible for infrastructure/sports park overruns:

Pretty standard stuff here. Crew/MLS assume any additional costs on the stadium with the City will bear the costs of infrastructure overruns and increased costs to the sports park.

Who pays what when it gets more expensive.
  • Broad outlines of stadium lease spelled out:

Again, there will be a separate lease agreement between the City/NCA and Crew/MLS, but this document does outline some basic principles. Rent will be $10 a year (don’t spend it all in one place), and Crew/MLS control revenues from events at the stadium (save civic events).

Lease outline.
  • Default language is pretty standard:

The default stuff is pretty standard; in the event of a breach, the parties have a limited amount of time to cure whatever problems there are. There are your standard provisions for mediation and if necessary, litigation. One interesting thing: MLS has the option to assume the obligations of the developer should they desire.

So those are the big nuggets from the development agreement. Again, the lease will be out there at a later date, once all of this is signed off on in the next three weeks. That would put a groundbreaking on track for the late summer. The stadium itself likely won’t open until mid-year 2021 according to the Crew, but that shouldn’t mean a long road trip since they have Mapfre to play in until the new place is open.

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