Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has made good on his threat to use Ohio's "Art Modell Law" to sue the owner of the Columbus Crew in an attempt to prevent the MLS team from moving to Austin. Specifically, Ohio is suing Precourt Sports Ventures, the operator of the Crew, as well as Team Columbus, which owns the Crew stadium, and Crew Soccer Stadium, the organization that leases the stadium property from the state.
The legal basis here dates back to Art Modell, Patron Saint of Shitty Professional Sports Owners. After Modell absconded to Baltimore with the Browns, Ohio passed a law meant to protect cities that funnel tax money to and otherwise financially support stadiums or arenas used by professional sports teams. The nitty gritty of Ohio Revised Code 9.67, passed in 1996: An owner must have permission from the locality to move or give six months' notice and a chance for the city or local investors to buy the team.
Precourt shocked Columbus last year when he announced his intentions to move the team to Texas if the city didn't come through with public financing for a brand new stadium. (His search for a stadium spot in Austin isn't going so swimmingly
, it should be noted.) Either way, DeWine's lawsuit will throw a new wrench into Precourt's plans.
“Today I have filed a lawsuit in Franklin County to try to #SaveTheCrew and keep the black and gold in Columbus,” DeWine said in a release. “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.”
Via a press release, the salient details bolstering DeWine's claim:
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.
Basically, the state wants a proper six-month notice before any move and the chance for local individuals to purchase the team for a reasonable price from Anthony Precourt during that time period.