News broke Monday night of potential plans for the Columbus Crew to leave the city it has called home since 1996 if a new stadium is not produced within the next two years.
If you’re anything like me, your social media feeds have been flooded with strongly worded reactions to the announced tentative plans to relocate the team to Austin, Texas. Ranging from sadness to anger, no one is particularly pleased about the news.
Since the announcement, Crew owner Anthony Precourt has attempted damage control by hosting a teleconference with reporters to “clarify” his intent.
He said the announcement has been “misrepresented,” and his ownership team is just “exploring our options.”
I say let them leave.
This is a classic owner-exploits-city situation. It is as old as sport itself.
St. Louis did not cave to the pressures of NFL owner Stan Kroenke, and he took the Rams to Los Angeles, which I presume he wanted to do all along — whether or not the city succumbed to his requests.
Art Modell pulled the same stunt in the 1990s when he took the Browns out of Cleveland and moved them to Baltimore.
Like many who grew up in Columbus, I fondly remember yelling incoherent chants from the Nordecke while attending games early in the franchise’s tenure.
The Crew has maintained solid attendance figures as soccer grew in popularity and MLS attendance reached record heights.
Now, Precourt wants even more.
The Crew is headed to the playoffs with a hometown star in Wil Trapp. It was in the MLS Cup two years ago and won the league title in 2008.
Amid this success, Precourt has found a way to deflate that enthusiasm and take the attention away from soccer.
He wants a new stadium downtown — Franklinton, Arena District or wherever he might so choose. He has been thin on location details, but he won’t be happy until he gets what he wants.
Mapfre Stadium, the Crew’s current home, was built in 1999 as the first-ever soccer-specific venue in Major League Soccer. Located near the Ohio State Fairgrounds, it is by no means old or dilapidated.
Columbus should not give in to Precourt’s preposterous request.
Precourt said he is not looking for taxpayers to fund the new stadium, but added no “suitable” outside investor has come forward. He also has no interest in selling the team, according to Columbus Partnership President and CEO Alex Fischer, who said the Columbus Partnership made an offer, but was rebuffed, the Dispatch reported.
Yet Precourt, when he bought the team in 2013, told the city he was committed to keeping the Crew in Columbus.
He couldn’t even keep that promise for five years.
Precourt told fans in 2016 he was “tired of the insecurities” regarding the team’s possible move.
“We’re playing for Columbus,” he told the Columbus Dispatch almost exactly a year ago to put any doubts to rest.
In fact, he has duped the city of Columbus — and Crew fans in the process.
Just look at what the two cities’ mayors had to say on the matter. Neither man’s statement appears to be from someone who just found out about this.
So go ahead Precourt, take the team away from the city you never wanted to be a part of in the first place. Columbus will be just fine.
In the meantime, I’ll be happy to see Precourt gone and less traffic when I get off the highway on Hudson Street.
Good luck Crew.
Columbus ’til I die.