Crew season preview: Blake Compton dreams up new Crew stadium sites

Jim Fischer
Columbus Alive

Before Blake Compton became Blake Compton of Compton Construction and one of Alive's “People to Watch” for 2016, he was a hooligan.

That is, he was the face of unofficial Columbus Crew SC fan organization the Hudson Street Hooligans, planning events, negotiating ticket deals and making sure fans were heard from at the highest levels of the team's front offices.

With no updates from the Crew on the “strategic planning process” it began last fall that focused on the possibility of moving from the current Mapfre Stadium, we thought we'd give a mega-fan with an understanding of Columbus real estate development a chance to brainstorm, just for fun, some ideas for where such a new stadium might be located.

Acknowledging that more research and, quite frankly, work, would have to be done on the viability of any new site, and allowing for the purposeful limitations of this kind of informal discussion, Compton nonetheless attacked the issue with the passion of both a fan and a builder (strangely enough).

First things first, Compton said, he'd like to see the Crew remain at its current site off I-71 on the near north side.

“If I was living in a dream world, I would think that a $50 million upgrade to the existing facility that included the team purchasing a substantial amount of the land around [the current stadium] to create amenities that bring people there earlier and interact with people longer” is his first choice, he said. “I want them there but I want them to interact with the neighborhood better.”

Compton said there is plenty of land to accommodate his dream scenario, which involves improved pedestrian access to companion developments of restaurants, bars and other commercial projects.

If the team is committed to moving, or sees it as the best option, Compton offered three sites he felt would benefit the Crew, its fans and the city.

The first is a site to the west of Huntington Park, home of the Columbus Clippers baseball team. Aside from the practical benefit of having three major sports facilities in close proximity (including, of course, Nationwide Arena), Compton said the location would bring a “new crowd, a new energy.” Drawbacks would be parking, the desire to not overlap game nights and the movement already afoot to develop the area. The Crew would need to be in those conversations right now, he said, for that site to be viable.

A second alternate site is the former Graham Ford dealership site on West Broad Street in Franklinton. Compton has done work on some of the redevelopment in Franklinton, including the Columbus Idea Foundry and Land-Grant Brewing Company, and he thinks a new Crew stadium there would benefit West Franklinton.

“There's more than enough land. You'd have to change a lot to [I-71] to make that work, but holy crap, you get off the highway and boom, there's the stadium,” he said. “That would be amazing for Franklinton to have that stadium. It also serves to connect a little bit more to the [Hollywood Casino].”

A third potential future site for a new stadium is the Amercrest or American Addition in the near northeast, near the intersection of East Fifth Avenue and Joyce Avenue. Compton said one reason for the large sections of still-undeveloped land there is that there is “no infrastructure,” including basic services like water and sewer.

“It would take a huge private-public partnership for it to occur,” Compton said. “But if you're talking about undeveloped land that's still accessible, there it is. That could be everything.”

Compton said the project could also serve to help reinvigorate the nearby Milo-Grogan neighborhood.

“I don't know the landowners at all, but if you could get everyone to play ball, it would be a beautiful partnership where you'd have government do its part with infrastructure and the private side brings this investment in a new stadium.”