July 15, 2022
On Dec. 5, 2018, I stood with neighborhood advocates,
community activists, faith leaders, and representatives of organized labor and
the Columbus business community to announce the city’s investment in a plan
that would ultimately ensure the Columbus Crew stayed in Columbus.
While the “Save the Crew” movement became a rallying cry for
soccer fans, the public-private partnership was always about more than soccer.
It was about what was best for our community.
The City committed $50 million to the project, though zero
dollars went to the construction of a new downtown stadium. Rather, our dollars
were tied to very specific goals:
- Infrastructure to support job creation, economic
development and new income tax revenue;
- Affordable housing as part of the development
planned around the new stadium;
- Historic minority participation in the
construction of the new stadium;
- Investment in a new training facility and
assurance that Historic Crew Stadium did not become the largest vacant and
abandoned building in Columbus, but was repurposed for productive use;
- Construction of a Community Sports Park that
would serve as a destination for youth sports, and provide multigenerational
opportunities for parks and recreation.
By almost all accounts, the public-private partnership to
“Save the Crew” has been a striking success, and we have fulfilled all of the
commitments – except one. The one outstanding commitment is the construction of
a Community Sports Park planned for the state fairgrounds, adjacent to the
Crew’s training facility.
The City has worked in earnest to secure a lease to the
site. But the Ohio Expositions Commission has refused to grant a lease.
While we leave open the door open for negotiations with the
state and remain prepared to invest recreation facilities on the fairgrounds
site, the community has waited long enough. So I was happy to announce that we
are advancing plans for a new, enhanced community sports at Kilbourne Run in
the Northeast part of the city. We will be investing millions of dollars to
enhance this 69-acre site to create an experience more than four times the size
of what was possible at the fairgrounds.
What’s more, we’re pleased to move forward in partnership
with the Crew to deliver fields and facilities that will increase access to
soccer and other field sports for Columbus kids, and position Columbus as a
destination for regional tournaments.
We heard from the community how pleased they are with being
able to move forward:
“We are super excited to hear that additional/upgraded
soccer facilities will be added into the Columbus area due to the help of the
city, as there is a shortage of quality fields.
Additionally, anything that promotes the game or aids in player
development is a win for the community.” - Jeffrey Warren, President of
“While I am disappointed in the state for not fulfilling
their commitment, praise to the City for finding a way to engage young people
from across the city in youth sports.” - Linden resident George Walker
“I look forward to expanding our relationship with the City
of Columbus, the Recreation and Parks Department, and the Crew to bring more
sports facilities and programming to our community. Within our Strategic Plan,
we made addressing the needs of the whole-child a priority, and this
collaboration does that. Access ensures that our students have opportunities to
grow, not just academically but physically, socially, and emotionally. I cannot
stress enough the power of partnerships to empower our students and revitalize
our neighborhoods.” Dr. Talisa Dixon, Superintendent of Columbus City Schools
But our announcement yesterday went much further than
Kilbourne Run. We also committed to pickleball courts at community centers
throughout the city – including a three-season tournament court at Mock Park.
Design work is starting for the Broad St. Arts Campus that will combine
programming from the Martin Jannis Center and Golden Hobby Shop into one
location with multigenerational appeal. And in a phased-in approach, we’re also
looking at building an aquatics center at the Howard Community Center in
Northeast Columbus in collaboration with Columbus City Schools.
Elwood Rayford, longtime resident in the Northeast area who
has been asking for improvements to the area, was thrilled at the possibility.
“I appreciate the investments being made and feel like I have been heard,” he
I am thrilled, too, Mr. Rayford, with our partnership with
the Crew as well as improvements to recreation sites throughout the city.