City leaders meet with Crew, MLS, over relocation
Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber and the owners of the Columbus Crew met with the Columbus mayor and the leader of a local business group over plans to relocate the team.
Anthony Precourt and Precourt Sports Ventures, which has owned the Major League Soccer club since 2013, announced last month that the team expects to move to Austin, Texas, following the 2018 season unless a new, privately financed stadium is built in downtown Columbus.
Garber and Precourt met in New York with Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther and Alex Fischer, head of the Columbus Partnership, according to the mayor.
Afterward PSV issued a statement saying Garber and Precourt went into the meeting with open minds.
“We were extremely disappointed that no concrete offer or proposal was presented and then told by the City of Columbus that it would not communicate with us past today,” the statement said.
PSV’s statement cited market challenges for the Crew in Columbus that “continue to mount” but said it was still be open to negotiations.
But Mayor Ginther and Fischer put out a conflicting statement. The Columbus Partnership is a group of some 60 business leaders from the city.
“We are disappointed and frustrated. We were united in putting all options on the table, with the expectation in return that the MLS and ownership would cease pursuing moving the team to Austin. Great American cities do not get into bidding wars over sports teams to benefit private owners. Garber and Precourt were not willing to do that today,” the statement said.
The Crew are currently in the MLS playoffs. Columbus beat New York City FC 4-3 on aggregate goals in the conference semifinals and will host top-seeded Toronto on Tuesday at Mapfre Stadium in the opening match of the two-leg conference championship.
The Crew, one of the 10 founding clubs in MLS, have played since 1996 and won the MLS Cup championship in 2008. They have played at Mapfre Stadium, the first soccer-specific stadium in the league, since 1999.
Fans in Columbus launched an effort to try to convince Precourt to keep the team in the city, spreading the word with the hashtag “SaveTheCrew” on social media.