Franklin County okays last piece of Columbus Crew’s $88m+ stadium subsidy puzzle

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!

12 comments on “Franklin County okays last piece of Columbus Crew’s $88m+ stadium subsidy puzzle

  1. Why is it a crappy playoff system?

    Oh, wait, it’s soccer. In Neil’s world, it’s crappy by default.

    • Or you could click the link to the article headlined “The New MLS Playoff Format Is A Disaster In Waiting.” But if that would ruin your fun, by all means don’t bother.

  2. In fairness to MLS’ crappy new playoff format… a single leg knockout tournament is what many fans have been asking for… and it certainly plays to the TV networks much better (why would casual fans tune into the first leg of a two leg playoff matchup? Nothing can really be decided. Alternately, if one team wins 3-0 – as happened this year – where is the incentive for casual fans to watch the second leg? The result is almost guaranteed).

    Yes, there is a loss of meaningful home dates for nearly half the playoff teams, but the current system does not distinguish significantly between teams finishing 5th and 1st, for example.

    Now, if you want a home playoff game, you need to finish in the top four.

    Definitely agree on there being too many playoff teams… but this is a complaint that can be levelled against all of the major sports these days (NHL and NBA particularly). I would have preferred the top two getting first round byes and the next four playoff. Or better yet, a 3 v 2 and winner meets 1 setup.

    But in the modern tv world? Forget it. Consider yourselves lucky MLS didn’t take the opportunity to realign into 8 divisions of 3 teams each with the top two in each making the playoffs…

    • I think focusing on what “fans” and TV networks shortsightedly want is precisely what makes it worse. The Deadspin article focused on the variability factor (that is, on any given day the chance the less deserving team wins) and that is a fair point. There are additional tactical differences that in my mind make a single game playoff much more likely to lead the less talented team parking the bus for the game in order to win on penalties. That is harder to do over two games AND in front of your own fans. Further, the better offensive team is likely to play more conservatively in order to minimize their exposure to mistakes.

        • No, but you are missing the point about soccer. Soccer does not have separate offensive and defensive squads with clear goals (the job of the defense is stop the other team and get the ball back–period). My point was about strategy and you can play a very defensive formation and increase the defensiveness by playing deep within any formation. Playing single games will lead to games more boring than 2 games and will encourage smart teams to use extremely defensive schemes. I am arguing that people who say they want single game playoffs (and no doubt there are arguments in favor) probably do not want an increase in “parking the bus” and only cautious passing upfield. They will also get the upsets that Deadspin noted.
          Defense in tackle football is a given (the only adjustment that is made is offensive tempo choices).

          • FMS:

            That exact argument has been made against two leg cup or playoff ties as well… that the home team focuses solely on not surrendering a goal in the first 90 minutes to avoid requiring “2” in the away leg.

            There has been no consistent evidence that either argument is true. If Mourinho (or Sigi Schmid) wants to park the bus he will do so, regardless of whether it is a single match or home/home tie. What really matters is the approach the managers take to the game(s). You could play a seven game series like some other sports do and spend all seven games solely trying to prevent the opposition from scoring.

            It has nothing to do with whether offensive and defensive players are separate squads. In all sports players have responsibilities. In the NBA, NHL, Soccer and for the most part MLB, the same players have both offensive and defensive responsibilities.

            When Messi or Fabregas or Kompany are not attacking (even Kompany has a role in attacking plays), they have defensive responsibilities they must honour.

      • I really don’t think most fans break their brains considering whether or not “the best team truly won” in playoff scenarios. Neutrals are often slightly inclined towards one conference or league, over the other, or may have some favorite player who represents one team or another. Was anyone worried that the Eagles weren’t “truly the best team” after last year’s Super Bowl? After all, the Pats, the Steelers and the Vikings had the same regular season record.

        • Very much true Dave. The one thing I invariably take away from each MLS cup is that, on the day, I cannot be certain that the team that is hoisting the trophy is legitimately better than one of the two teams in each conference that just missed the playoffs.

          No playoff system is guaranteed to fix that as upsets are possible, teams go cold at certain points of the season, and sometimes the most highly skilled teams cannot play “their” game well in cold or windy conditions…

          Still, if a #5 seed has a great run and ends up beating the #1 seed away in a single game, I’m more comfortable that they are the best team than I am if they’ve won three straight two leg series on Penalties.

    • Would you believe people are so stupid, and so into “the playoffs”, that all four big leagues in the US are considering expanding their playoffs? Yes even the NBA and NHL. Both because the playoffs make huge amounts of money, and because when teams are well and truly out of them, they see big drops in revenue generally. So the owners in all four sports are generally militating for more playoff teams, with the league offices having to attempt to hold the line.

      I really think if the leagues are still around in 50-100 years all the teams will be in the playoffs. Which is one of the reason I like the EPL system better, makes the whole year just a literal “playoff”.

  3. I’ll disagree here with MLS’s new playoff format being “stupid,” just as I did on the Deadspin article. The new format does away with the two week International Break that took place RIGHT TOWARDS THE END OF THEM. That was far and away the biggest issue with MLS’ playoff. It killed all momentum. The fact that the will be done sooner is a huge upside.