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City Asks For More Time To Possibly Purchase Columbus Crew

Jay LaPrete
Associated Press

The Columbus City Attorney's office has made another move in its attempt to keep Columbus Crew in the city. 

City Attorney Zach Klein asked the Franklin County Common Pleas Court on Monday to pause a six-month period when local investors have a chance to buy the Major League Soccer franchise.

“This tactic enables us to pause the six-month time period as outlined in the law in order to protect investments by the people of Ohio,” Klein wrote in a statement. “This will allow the City of Columbus to ensure that local investors in fact have the opportunity to purchase the team. 

Both the city and the state, led by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, have sued the owner of Columbus Crew, Precourt Sports Ventures, arguing the company failed to give the city proper notice and the chance to buy the team when they announced the team's possible move to Austin, Texas. 

Their lawsuit cites the 1996 "Modell Law," which was written with the intent to keep professional sports team owners from skipping town without offering interested locals the chance to buy the team and keep it local.  

According to Mayor Andrew Ginther, Columbus Partnership CEO Alex Fischer has been coordinating an offer with "prospective purchasers who have the necessary bona fides to operate an MLS franchise." Fischer also apparently identified "multiple potential downtown stadium locations that may be suitable for a new stadium."

Monday's request would delay the "right to purchase" window of opportunity until the legal battle over the Crew's move has been resolved. Anthony Precourt, owner of Precourt Sports Ventures, argues that the team's six-month window began when he announced in October 2017 his intention to move the team barring the construction of a new downtown stadium.

At the time, Mayor Andrew Ginther said the city "did not receive full engagement from the team's ownership" about keeping the Crew in town. Since then, negotiations between city leaders, Crew owners and MLS officials failed to amount to anything.

SaveTheCrew organizers released a letter on Monday addressed to MLS commissioner Don Garber saying that it is "ready and willing to work with the league and team investor/operators" on keeping the Crew in town. 

The letter urges MLS to consider a plan submitted by Ginther: "a local ownership group ready to purchase the team, and land available in downtown to build a new world-class stadium, maintaining Columbus as soccer's home in the United States."

Copyright 2018 WOSU 89.7 NPR News

Clare Roth