Columbus Crew SC Opens 2018 With Uncertain Future

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When Columbus Crew SC hosted its home opener on Saturday, it was apparent that ongoing discussions of relocating to Austin have resulted in questions about the club’s future. 

Last October, Crew SC owner Anthony Precourt revealed that he would explore the idea of moving the team to Austin. While it was always known that Crew SC would spend the 2018 MLS season at Columbus’s MAPFRE Stadium, the club has still not committed to a move. After considerable debate over a stadium site, efforts to construct a venue in Austin are now focused on McKalla Place, but Crew SC and city officials will have to have further discussions before making a decision on that location. Furthermore, the team’s relocation discussions have prompted a lawsuit, as Ohio and Columbus officials filed suit against the team’s ownership and MLS, citing an Art Modell-inspired law in their argument for blocking a move.

The ongoing relocation discussions have played out for months, and it was apparent to some fans at Saturday’s home opener that numerous questions about Crew SC’s future remain unanswered. More from The Columbus Dispatch:

When news of the potential move broke in October, many fans thought the team’s fate would be decided by the home opener. Instead, Crew investor-operator Anthony Precourt just last week identified a site in Austin for a stadium survey, so two weeks into the 2018 season, a move to Austin is not yet across the finish line.

The simultaneous narratives — a team playing on the field while relocation efforts progress — make for a bizarre start to the season, noted Crew fan Tim Myers as Toto’s “Africa,” the team’s unofficial song, blared from a nearby tailgate.

“I think it’s gotten easier as the winter has gone on, but it feels weird being here and it’s still not resolved. In many ways, we still have almost as many questions as we did when this started,” said Myers, 45. “From my standpoint, it’s good that this has dragged into the season, especially if the Crew gets off to a good start.”

There were nods to the cause — a few “Save the Crew” chants mixed in over 90 minutes — from the announced 11,098 in attendance on a chilly but sunny afternoon, but for many, it was a celebration of soccer.

Crew SC has been reported as possibly moving to Austin in time for the 2019 MLS season, and would use another facility there on a temporary basis until construction of a new stadium is complete. However, no relocation plan has been finalized to this point and the club will now have to work with local officials to consider McKalla Place’s viability as a stadium site.

Image courtesy MAPFRE Stadium. 

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