Ohio attorney general files lawsuit against Columbus Crew owners

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MLS Crew Union Soccer_563847

Columbus Crew’s Mohammed Abu in action during the second half of an MLS soccer match against the Philadelphia Union, Wednesday, July 26, 2017, in Chester, Pa. Philadelphia won 3-0. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and the city of Columbus filed a lawsuit Monday against Precourt Sports Ventures, which hopes to move the Columbus Crew Major League Soccer team to Austin.

“Today I have filed a lawsuit in Franklin County to try to #SaveTheCrew and keep the black and gold in Columbus,” said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. “Loyal Crew fans in Columbus have invested their time and loyalty in this team, and they have allowed the Crew SC to capitalize from financial incentives paid for by their tax dollars. I am left with no other choice than to file this suit to ensure our laws are followed.”

“As I have said, we believe Columbus Crew SC belongs in Columbus. We have a rich history of professional soccer and some of the most loyal and dedicated fans in the league,” said Mayor Andrew J. Ginther. “Just as importantly, the team plays in a taxpayer-supported facility, and Precourt Sports Ventures and Major League Soccer have accepted financial assistance from the state of Ohio and the City of Columbus. State law provides us with this protection.”

The lawsuit is filed under a law passed in 1996 after the Browns moved to Baltimore. The law prohibits an owner from moving a team that uses tax-supported facilities without six-months notice. It also requires that a local entity be given an opportunity to purchase the team.

The lawsuit alleges that the Crew SC and its affiliates have:

  • accepted the benefits of approximately $5 million in state taxpayer-funded improvements to their parking facilities.
  • accepted state property tax exemption for the land on which the Crew SC’s home field, Mapfre Stadium, sits.
  • leased that land from the state at a below-market rate.
  • accepted more than $300,000 in city taxpayer-funded reimbursements of their costs in moving portions of a storm sewer and constructing a water line.
  • entered into a Tax Increment Financing and Economic Development Agreement with the city of Columbus to extend Silver Drive to increase access to Mapfre Stadium currently costing the city $1.3 million in tax revenue with the potential total cost of more than $2.1 million.

“I am very pleased that our state’s top law enforcement officer is vigorously enforcing longstanding Ohio law,” said State Representative Mike Duffey. “The Crew SC is our team. Our town. Neither the MLS or Precourt Sports Ventures can operate above Ohio law.”

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