Tuesday, August 20, 2019

A Generic Henchmen Hideout Where Hell Is Real or...

...what abandoned structures currently occupy the area near the eventual location of a new Columbus Crew Stadium.

- Mapfre Stadium, Columbus, August 10, 2019 aka "Hell is Real I."

While attending the first match of this year’s "Hell Is Real" derby (a now annual series between FC Cincinnati and the Columbus Crew), I met a lot of Columbus fans who affectionately referred to their stadium as “the erector set.” Mapfre Stadium, (née Columbus Crew Stadium) opened in 1999 as Major League Soccer’s first soccer-specific venue. While it kicked off a trend of building soccer-centric facilities in cities throughout the nation (such as the one set to debut in Cincinnati in 2021), Mapfre was built quick and on the cheap at a time when the league’s long term success was still questionable. It sits among a sea of parking out at the State Fairgrounds.

- Mapfre Stadium tailgating.

Its playing surface is beautiful, its simple structure is homely, and the place is filled with two decades worth of memories for fans of the game (myself included), but the venue pales in comparison to those that followed. Some added aesthetics over the years made an effort to liven-up the structure, but behind the banners and beneath the bleachers is a maze of metalwork that gave birth to the “Erector Set” nickname.

- Traveling FC Cincinnati fans fill upper sections of Mapfre Stadium.

After the Crew’s previous owner tried, and failed spectacularly, to relocate the team to Austin, Texas—a new ownership group arrived. Part of their pledge to keep the Crew in Columbus included plans for a new stadium in a more accessible location with proximity to people and popular places. Mapfre itself will be downsized and have much of its landscape developed into a large-scale community soccer complex. Meanwhile, The Crew will head for downtown Columbus around 2021.

- Rendering of Columbus' proposed new stadium.

When built, the new Crew Stadium and its surrounding development will be just down the street from the AAA Clippers’ ballpark and the Blue Jackets’ NHL arena. Fittingly dubbed the “Arena District,” this downtown Columbus development has aged rather well after two decades. Trees line walkways that connect with park space and warm brick serves as a fitting nod to Central and Eastern Ohio’s brick producing, industrial history.

Tangentially related: An abandoned Ohio prison where inmates made bricks. Featured on QC/D in 2017.

- Columbus skyline as seen in the distance from Mapfre Stadium.

The day after attending a match in what are now Mapfre’s waning years, my friend Ryan and I decided to swing by the site of the new stadium on our way out of town. Arriving, we came across these derelict structures that were (according to this document) one of the city’s “Maintenance Operations Outposts.” Per Google Street View, the outpost appears to have been abandoned around or after 2016.


In the end, the stadium and surrounding mixed-use buildings set to replace the outpost will help grow Columbus’ downtown footprint. For now, the area (as Ryan and I described it), looks like the kind of place where a stereotypical movie or TV drug/black market deal would go down. It’s a Scooby Doo style setting where the city skyline can still be seen in the background to give geographical context. The kind of place where a villain would be double crossed in broad daylight, resulting in a dramatic ambush by nondescript henchmen.

So, if you’re looking to film a network cop show or a generic action film, this is your spot.

Until they open that new stadium.

Right around the time that Cincinnati opens theirs.

As hell continues to be real.

- Die Innenstadt.

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