Ohio Attorney General sues to keep Columbus Crew soccer from moving to Austin


Austin attorney Richard Suttle is representing Precourt Sports Ventures in the effort to bring the Major League Soccer club Columbus Crew to our neck of the woods.

He said the benefits to the community are pretty big.

“There have been numbers kicked around from $300 to $400 million over 25 years and again those are just the direct benefits,” Suttle said.

The major hold-up: finding that sweet spot for a stadium.

City Council provided a list of optional locations including some parkland. But Austinites love their parks. The team struck Butler Shores from the list after a public outcry. And last week the Parks board recommended taking Roy G. Guerrero off the list too. At last Thursday’s council meeting, parkland advocates implored council to follow suit and protect Guerrero.

“It’s got to be in a vibrant area where there’s a lot of things to do and eat and have entertainment options in addition to soccer. It’s got to have good transportation options and it’s got to have a cool factor,” Suttle said.

The McKalla Place location is city-owned but it’s not parkland and it’s a focal-point for Precourt Sports Ventures right now.

“McKalla Place is getting an extra focus because it’s really looking like a good site. It is in The Domain area, it’s close to rail, it’s got good roads next to it,” Suttle said.

Suttle said the property used to be an industrial site.

“One of the things we’ll have to look at, it’s been through some environmental cleanups. One of our things that we’ll be studying is to the extent that it’s been cleaned up and whether it will be suitable for a soccer park,” Suttle said.

The site is adjacent to Capital Metro’s MetroRail line as well as two apartment complexes that are under construction: Broadstone Burnet at 10301 Burnet Road, Austin, and The Copeland at 2511 W. Braker Lane, Austin.

But the Columbus Crew isn’t going to The Domain or anywhere in Austin if the Ohio attorney general gets his way.

This week Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, along with the city of Columbus, filed a lawsuit against Precourt Sports Ventures and MLS, citing a mid-1990s statute that prohibits team owners who use tax-supported facilities and accept state financial assistance from moving their team without giving at least six months’ notice and giving someone in the area a chance to buy the team.

The suit alleges the Columbus Crew has accepted millions of taxpayer dollars for parking facility improvements and more.

Precourt Sports Ventures said they are still reviewing the litigation

“Somebody wants to file a lawsuit. … I’m not worried about it; it does not affect what we’re doing on our studies on sites in Austin, Texas,” Suttle said.

Suttle said they’re still reviewing the possible stadium spots and the ball is in Precourt’s “court” if you will as far as getting back with council about a preferred site for a stadium.

Joint statement from Major League Soccer and Precourt Sports Ventures:

“Precourt Sports Ventures and Major League Soccer are disappointed that the Ohio Attorney General and the City of Columbus have chosen to commence litigation rather than encouraging public officials in Columbus to engage in constructive discussions about the future of Columbus Crew SC.

The complaint, regrettably, chooses to ignore both the facts and the law. Since acquiring the right to operate the Club in 2013, PSV has made significant investments both on and off the field to try and make Crew SC a viable enterprise in Columbus. Despite these efforts and the on-field success of the Club, Crew SC has been at or near the bottom in the League with respect to box office results and corporate support. Marketplace challenges have existed in Columbus for 22 years since the club’s founding in 1996. As a result, PSV last October announced that it would explore the possibility of relocation while also continuing to see if Columbus can be a successful MLS market, and in particular, whether there is a path to a new stadium.

MLS and PSV remain willing to engage with both public officials and potential private investors in Columbus to determine if there is a legitimate plan to make Crew SC viable in Columbus, including a plan for a new stadium.

Throughout this process, PSV and MLS have complied, and will continue to comply, with all relevant laws, but we strongly disagree with the AG’s and City’s interpretation of the Modell Law, its applicability to Columbus Crew SC, and the remedies they seek.”

Reporting is provided as part of Community Impact Newspaper’s partnership with Fox 7 News

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  1. It’s worth noting that the Modell Law has never been tested in court, and if it were to be would not hold much water. Beyond that there are many ways for the Crew to move forward without even challenging that statute; simply offer to sell the team for an obscene amount over market value (Precourt doesn’t want to sell so this seems fair), and give them a 6 month notice of the impending departure.

    Welcome to Austin, Soccer Team Formerly Known as the Crew.

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