After word surfaced that he is considering moving Columbus Crew SC to Austin, owner Anthony Precourt emphasized that no decision has been made on relocation. However, he also noted that a new downtown stadium will be crucial to keeping the franchise in Columbus.
Reports have indicated that Precourt could move Crew SC to Austin, where a new soccer-specific stadium would eventually be constructed as part of a larger development. Columbus has struggled with low attendance numbers at MAPFRE Stadium, which opened as MLS’s first soccer-specific stadium in 1999 but has since fallen behind the standards set by the league’s newer facilities. Precourt purchased the team from original owner Hunt Sports Group in 2013. While his purchase agreement committed the team to Columbus for a decade, it does contain an out clause should he desire an Austin move.
In light of the discussion of the possible move, Precourt has emphasized that no final decisions have been made on relocation. “This is just an announcement that we are exploring our options,” he said in The Columbus Dispatch. “No relocation decision has been made.” He also did not rule out that the team could ultimately remain in Columbus, but stressed that a new downtown soccer-specific stadium is essential to keeping the club in the city. More from The Columbus Dispatch:
Precourt, who will be in Austin on Wednesday, said he and his ownership group are not seeking public tax dollars to build a stadium in Columbus or Austin. He also downplayed the nature of investment deals presented to Precourt Sports Ventures, adding, “No investor in Columbus presented a serious offer to invest in the club while the team plays at Mapfre Stadium.”
No matter what, Crew SC will play at Mapfre Stadium in 2018, but the key to keeping the franchise in Columbus beyond that is construction of a Downtown, soccer-specific stadium..
Asked if Crew SC staying put requires a Downtown stadium, Precourt replied, “Yes. Whether that’s Franklinton or Arena District or Downtown, yes.”
MAPFRE Stadium will be Crew SC’s home in 2018 regardless, but the years 2019 and beyond are in question. Reports indicate that a lease to play at the University of Texas in 2019 until a new stadium Austin is completed is in the works.
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