We end 2017 with a countdown of the 10 biggest stories of the year on Soccer Stadium Digest, as chosen by editors and partially based on page views. Today, #5: Columbus Crew SC considers relocating to Austin.
The year is ending with the future of Columbus Crew SC still in question. Efforts to relocate the franchise to Austin and build a new stadium in the city appear to be making progress, but plenty of questions about its future will have to be answered before anything comes to fruition.
In October, Crew SC owner Anthony Precourt announced that he was considering a relocation of his club to Austin. While nothing has been finalized, Precourt is reportedly seeking to construct a privately financed stadium. Crew SC could move as early as 2019, and play at another facility on a temporary basis until the new MLS stadium opens.
As part of that process, officials are considering city-owned properties—including underutilized parkland—that could be used for the stadium and a practice facility. A report released in December listed numerous options, including Butler Shores Metropolitan Park—a site that has earned high marks in Precourt’s camp—but no action is expected on a site until the middle of February 2018.
Faced with the potential loss of their club, Columbus and Ohio officials have been vocal in their desire to see the team stay in place. Columbus mayor Andrew Ginter and Columbus Partnership president CEO Alex Fischer met with Precourt and MLS officials in November, but the parties came away from the discussion expressing frustrations. More recently, Ohio attorney general Mike DeWine indicated that he could invoke an Art Modell-inspired law to keep the club from moving unless certain conditions are met.
Heading into 2018, there are several questions that figure to be answered over time. First, will be whether Precourt is able to strike a deal in Austin or Columbus—he has said a new stadium would be needed in either city—to settle the club’s future. If a relocation is in the works, it remains to be seen how the timing would play out. Crew SC will play the 2018 season at Columbus’s MAPFRE Stadium, but as noted the possibility has been raised of moving to Austin as early as 2019. Austin also has another professional soccer pitch hanging in the balance, as plans for a USL Austin club to relaunch at a new stadium in 2019 are now clouded with uncertainty.
Regardless of how these issues play out, the future of Crew SC will be watched closely. While Austin has long been labeled an intriguing soccer market, Crew SC has called Columbus home since the league’s inaugural season in 1996.
Rendering of Austin MLS stadium courtesy Precourt Sports Ventures.
Previously in our Top Ten Stories of 2017 List: