The Columbus Crew SC could be on the verge of getting a new stadium thanks to Ohio state senate. On Thursday, December 13, the state governing body approved a bill that includes funding for a new stadium for the city’s Major League Soccer Club. According to a report on MLS.com, the “Christmas free bill” appropriates $15 million toward a new soccer-specific complex along with $50 from the city of Columbus and Franklin County. The bill was overwhelmingly passed by a vote of 29-2 and will now go to Governor John Kasich for approval. At the time of this writing, Kasich has not indicated if he will sign the legislation.
The spending bill is just part of a plan to revitalize part of the Columbus’ downtown. The majority of the funding for the stadium would be contributed by Jimmy and Dee Haslam and Dr. Peter H. Edwards, Jr., the current owners of the Cleveland Browns who are currently seeking to purchase the Columbus Crew SC. Under the plan, a new $230 million soccer stadium would be built in downtown Columbus on a site where the Olentangy and Scioto rivers intersect.
The proposal is something of a surprise considering the Crew’s current stadium, Mapfre Stadium, has been in use for just two decades. Originally known as Columbus Crew Stadium before the club sold the naming rights to the Madrid-based insurance company in 2015, the 20,000-seat stadium is the nation’s first modern-era soccer-specific stadium, and only the second soccer-specific complex since Steele Athletic Field was built in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, in 1913.
The construction of Mapfre Stadium began the trend of MLS clubs constructing soccer-specific stadiums around the nation. Since Mapfre Stadium debuted in 1998, 15 additional MLS clubs have opened soccer-only stadiums, not including Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium which was constructed to accommodate the specific field dimensions and bleacher configuration for both football and soccer. Should the bill pass and a new stadium for the Crew is built, Mapfre Stadium will be converted into a community sports park and a training ground for the club.