Over 17,000 fans turned out to MAPFRE Stadium for Saturday’s opening match, signaling the arrival of a new era for Columbus Crew SC after previous uncertainty over its future.
This time a year ago, there were questions about how much longer the Crew would call Columbus home. Investor-operator Anthony Precourt had been exploring a move of the club to Austin, TX, at one point seeking to relocate the team as early as 2019 to play at a temporary home in the Austin area until a new stadium could be built. However, the future of the Crew in Columbus was salvaged in recent months, as Jimmy and Dee Haslam–owners of the NFL’s Cleveland Browns–and the Columbus-based Edwards family bought into MLS and received operating rights to Columbus. Precourt, meawhile, remained an MLS investor and received rights to Austin, where Austin FC will begin play in 2021 as the league’s 27th team.
Plans for the Haslam-Edwards group do not stop with merely keeping the Crew in Columbus, as a new soccer-specific stadium in the city’s Arena District is in the works for a 2021 opening. The upcoming stadium will be anticipated as it develops, but the focus during Saturday’s opener against the New York Red Bulls was on the new Columbus Crew era taking shape. More from the Columbus Dispatch:
The parking lot at the North Side stadium on Saturday afternoon was filled with more than 10,000 Crew SC fans jubilant that the season would be underway. Kids kicked soccer balls around and beat a pinata with a black-and-gold bar while adults grilled with friends, enjoying beers and taking warmth by the fire pits….
“It’s really incredible to see kids growing up with soccer in the U.S.,” said David Miller, #SaveTheCrew spokesman. “My wife and I, we don’t have kids, but we are Columbus till we die. My future children will grow up with the Crew and with Crew fans.”
The reported crowd of 17,931 was one of the attendance highlights of the first week of the 2019 MLS season. Seattle led the way with a reported crowd of 39,011 for its opening match of the season, while Vancouver drew an impressive total of 27,837 for its opener. For more on week one MLS attendance, see our attendance report.
Photo courtesy Columbus Crew.
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