Lawmaker: Let Locals Have a Chance to Buy MLS Team has partnered with LexisNexis to bring you this content.

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Dayton Daily News (Ohio)


COLUMBUS — A Franklin County lawmaker says a state law passed in reaction to Art Modell's decision to move the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore could be used to stop the Columbus Crew SC from leaving town.

Rep. Mike Duffey, R-Worthington, is asking Attorney General Mike DeWine to take legal action to block the Crew SC's threatened move to Austin, Texas.

"This is our team, our town. We're not going to go out without a fight," Duffey said.

"The fact is, the law is the law, and they've got to follow it just like everybody else. They've been jerks about everything they've done about it. If we want to purchase the team as a town, we're afforded that right under state law."

The basis for the action, he said, is a 1996 law that says no owner of a professional sports team in Ohio that uses tax-supported facilities or gets public financial assistance can move out of town unless the owner gives six months advance notice and gives the city or local individuals who reside in the area the opportunity to purchase the team.

"This is the one thing the Browns did for the state of Ohio that we should all praise them for," Duffey said.

"If people in Columbus don't want to buy the team, they can move. But if people want to buy the team, they've got to sell it" if it's a reasonable offer.

Duffey says Crew SC qualifies as receiving taxpayer-supported facilities because it is paying a below-market rate to lease state land for parking, the stadium sits on land that is tax exempt, and the state in 2009 provided $5 million for parking upgrades at the Ohio Expo Center, where lots just south of the stadium and are used by Crew SC fans.

"We would not have provided that funding but for the Crew," Duffey said.

Crew SC owner-operator Anthony Precourt has threatened to move the team to Austin if a Downtown stadium does not materialize. Talks between city officials and Crew SC have not yet produced results.

Asked about Duffey's action, a spokesman said, "Precourt Sports Ventures has seen the public remarks made by State Rep. Mike Duffey and PSV will not have further comment at this time."

Columbus officials have made suggestions on stadium locations, including either Berliner Park or the Dodge Park. But Precourt said after a Nov. 15 meeting that no legitimate offer was proposed.

Through a spokeswoman, Mayor Andrew Ginther has said that the city doesn't want to get in a bidding war with another city, so to move forward, Columbus wants a commitment from the team that it will stay.

Duffey has spoken to the attorney general's office, but Mike DeWine is not yet saying if he will take action.

"Rep. Duffy has contacted our office, and we have initiated a review of this matter," said spokesman Dan Tierney.

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December 8, 2017


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