The Franklin County Board of Commissioners toppled the final domino for a new Columbus Crew stadium today, voting unanimously to hand over $45 million in public funds over the next 30 years — that’s about $23 million in present value — to pay for … stuff. Not stadium stuff, because everyone involved has agreed that public money shan’t be used for actual stadium construction, but all kinds of other stuff that the developers want, because that’s totally cool.
This is one of the more difficult stadium deals to evaluate in recent memory, in part because there are so many different funding streams and so many super-vague things they’re being spend on (“infrastructure,” “public improvements”), and in part because all this money is just getting dumped into a New Community Authority with a broad mandate to spend on … stuff. (“The Deposit shall be paid to the NCA to be used by the NCA, as determined by the NCA in cooperation with Franklin County, to fund or assist in funding any qualifying community facilities.”) Almost certainly, by the time anyone knows where the money is going, it will be far too late to do anything about it — I mean, after today’s vote it’s already too late to do anything about it.
This is a very good thing if you’re Crew and Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam or someone who thinks spending more than $88 million — the county Memorandum of Understanding notes that the stadium will be exempt from property taxes, too, so that’s an added cost — to move the local MLS team across town and stay there for … okay, the county’s MOU says the team will have a 30-year lease, but it’s still to be “mutually agreed upon by the parties,” so no clue if it’ll have an out clause or what. It’s a bad thing if you don’t think this particular pig in a poke is worth that as-yet-unspecified sum, or if you’re just a fan of local governments figuring out what they’re buying before promising to provide the money. At least Crew fans will get to enjoy MLS’s crappy new playoff system while waiting to find out how long Haslam waits to threaten to leave again!