Anthony Precourt, chief executive officer of Precourt Sports Ventures which owns Columbus Crew SC, has announced that the company is looking into the idea of options away from Columbus which includes Austin, TX.
Declining attendance along with the league’s lowest ticket prices has led to losses in ticket revenue. MAPFRE Stadium has been the home of Crew SC since 1999 and has issues of its own – including an instance where the scoreboard caught fire - despite being one of the first soccer specific stadiums which was one of the foundations to keep Major League Soccer going at the time. However, its location and modest amenities has led to a minor league atmosphere.
Anthony Precourt purchased the Columbus Crew and MAPFRE Stadium in 2013 for $68 million and launched a rebrand to Columbus Crew SC the following year to bolster attendance and interest in the area.
Massive Report did a fantastic job of breaking down some of the financial hurdles the club currently faces in an interview with Team President Andy Loughnane that highlights some of the problems facing Crew SC which helps understand the motivations for potentially moving the club.
Essentially, Crew SC is not thriving financially at the moment and Precourt PSV believes a new stadium in downtown Columbus could be the answer. Should that not be possible, Precourt thinks that a move away from Columbus could be the answer financially. Austin, the largest metropolitan area in North America without a major league sports franchise, could be an ideal fit.
Earlier this year Major League Soccer trademarked the names “Austin FC” and “Austin Athletic” which could be an indication of the league’s stance on where the club should be located. MLS executive vice president Dan Courtemanche told the American-Statesman that, “it is not unusual for Major League Soccer to trademark names that could be used for a variety of business purposes unrelated to expansion”.
While Courtemanche was addressing this issue regarding a possible Austin expansion to MLS, MLS Comissioner Don Garber echoed some of the concerns Precourt PSV mentioned in its statement regarding relocation. Garber mentioned that, “as attendance League-wide continues to grow on a record-setting pace, and markets across the country seek to join MLS, Columbus’ situation is particularly concerning....Despite PSV’s significant investments and improvements on and off the field, Columbus Crew SC is near the bottom of the League in all business metrics and the Club’s stadium is no longer competitive with other venues in MLS. The League is very reluctant to allow teams to relocate, but based on these factors, we support PSV’s efforts to explore options outside of Columbus, including Austin, provided they find a suitable stadium location”.
The idea of a Texas Triangle between the Houston Dynamo, FC Dallas, and Austin certainly seems tantalizing, but one has to feel for the fans in Columbus if this move goes through. The other part of this is what it could do to San Antonio’s MLS aspirations as a team in Austin could derail any hopes of gaining a MLS franchise.
The move to Austin is by no means done and finding a stadium site is another hurdle for Crew SC to two-step to Texas, but with Precourt setting a deadline to find a downtown stadium in Columbus, we will know soon enough. Grant Wahl tweeted out that Anthony Precourt is set to move the club to Austin for the 2019 season unless a deal can be made for the new stadium.
Columbus Crew owner Anthony Precourt is set to move team to Austin, Texas, in 2019 if downtown stadium can't happen in Columbus. Story soon.— Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) October 17, 2017