By Ris Twigg
When it came time to discuss the Columbus Crew’s residency and community involvement at Obetz’s soccer facilities, Obetz Village Council members lacked hope they’d see another offer from the Crew.
But that hopelessness was premature.
“For anyone who wants to save the Crew for Obetz…it’s your last chance,” said Rod Davisson, economic development director for the village of Obetz, during council’s Nov. 12 meeting.
On Nov. 13, Crew representatives walked into Davisson’s office with a surprise — a new offer.
The Crew offered Obetz roughly $100,000 per year to rent the facilities with an increase of an extra $25,000 in future years, three public Crew trainings per year and a discounted soccer camp for kids living in Obetz, among other incentives, with the hopes of remaining in their current practice facility in Obetz for an additional 3-year term.
“I was a little bit surprised because I thought we had kind of come to our natural end,” Davisson said of the offer. “I think they put forth a good effort to try to come to some resolution.”
Obetz extended the Crew’s lease by one month in order to develop a counter offer that expands on what the soccer team has already proposed and to give both parties more time to make an informed decision.
“We don’t want to rush and make a decision based on timing instead of merit,” Davisson said.
Because of the upcoming holidays and timing of Obetz’s council meetings, the counter offer isn’t expected to be public until January, according to Davisson.
The Crew is currently on a month-to-month lease now set to end on Jan. 30. The Major League Soccer team currently pays $2,500 per month ($30,000 per year) for a 5,000 square-foot building and two world-class soccer fields, according to Davisson. But to Davisson, it’s not about the money.
“We can make the rent $10,000,” he said. “It’s more about having a team here that’s really never connected with the community.”
Guarded by an 8-foot privacy fence that prevents the community from watching the team practice, the Columbus Crew has made Obetz’s soccer facilities its home since 1997, just two years after Major League Soccer incorporated as a limited liability company.
“For us, the facility belongs to the village,” Davisson said. “It’s been a long relationship with three different owners. We all know the road they’re on. We’re just trying to bridge the gap between now and then.”
Growing the community
Obetz isn’t just relying on the Columbus Crew to keep growing its community, though.
Residents can expect to see several multi-million dollar projects coming out of council this January and February. Obetz has been buying up parcel after parcel of rural and commercial land in an effort to create more public spaces and spur economic development.
On Nov. 12, council approved its park capital improvements fund, a first-step in financing the newly-acquired land. The fund is separate from Obetz’s general capital improvements fund, Davisson said, and is for property-specific purchases and projects.
One of the first major projects is to convert an 18-acre parking lot — currently an auto auction lot — into retail and restaurants, things that Obetz residents can mostly only get in Groveport.
“Right now it looks like we have two (restaurants) coming,” said Mayor D. Greg Scott, who added jokingly, “Hopefully we’ll get a Tim Horton’s in there.”
Another project consists of 100 acres of farm land split in half by I-270. The village already owns one of the 50-acre lots. All 100 acres will be converted into community parks, although the exact type and number of parks is yet to be determined.
One thing is for certain, though: Davisson is hopeful about Obetz’s future, with or without the Crew.
“We’re trying to create the best living experience of any municipality in Ohio,” he said. “On average, we’ve added 1,000 jobs a year. There’s about 20,000 people who work in this town and about 5,000 that live here. I was teasing for the most part when I said not many people took vacations this year, but I mean it. Everybody worked phenomenally hard.”