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Ohio Lawmaker Hopes 'Modell Law' Can Keep Crew In Columbus

MAPFRE Stadium was the first soccer-specific stadium built in the U.S.
MAPFRE Stadium

An Ohio lawmaker is invoking former Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell is his efforts to keep the Columbus Crew SC from leaving the city.

Modell, who became one of the most hated people in Cleveland history after moving the beloved Browns to Baltimore in 1996, inspired passage of a state law meant to keep owners of teams that play in publicly-funded stadiums from skipping town.

The “Modell Law” says:

No owner of a professional sports team that uses a tax-supported facility for most of its home games and receives financial assistance from the state or a political subdivision thereof shall cease playing most of its home games at the facility and begin playing most of its home games elsewhere unless the owner either: (A) Enters into an agreement with the political subdivision permitting the team to play most of its home games elsewhere; (B) Gives the political subdivision in which the facility is located not less than six months’ advance notice of the owner’s intention to cease playing most of its home games at the facility and, during the six months after such notice, gives the political subdivision or any individual or group of individuals who reside in the area the opportunity to purchase the team.

Republican Rep. Mike Duffey of Worthington says he’s asked the Ohio Attorney General’s Office to use the law as a means to keep the Crew from moving to Austin, Texas in 2019.

Duffey says it was a Crew fan who alerted him to the law.

The Attorney General’s office has not said if it will pursue Duffey’s claim.

The Crew play in MAPFRE Stadium, which sits on state-owned land. The state also used $5 million in tax money for recent parking lot upgrades.

Crew owner Anthony Precourt has said even though MAPFRE Stadium is less than 20 years old, it’s no longer a viable home for a Major League Soccer team. He’s said he plans to move the team to Austin unless barring construction of a new downtown Columbus stadium.

Precourt and Columbus city officials have fought a PR war over whether there have been any “serious” or “actionable “ plans to keep the Crew from moving. At least two separate stadium locations have been shot down, and the two sides have disagreed over whether local business leaders made any realistic offers to maintain local ownership of the team.

MLS officials have sided with Precourt, calling the Crew’s business and attendance situations “concerning.”