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Columbus Could Kick Off MLS Stadium Project 2.0

(New England and DC fans, avert your eyes.  This could hurt).

The Columbus Crew hold the distinction of opening MLS’s first soccer specific stadium when Crew Stadium was opened in 1999.  Since then, the stadium has hosted one MLS championship and two All Star games; more importantly, however, it has become an absolute fortress for the U.S. men’s national team.  The Yanks are 6-0-3 all-time in Columbus including three wins over Mexico.  The 20,000 seater is one of MLS’s jewels but it also could begin the next wave in MLS’s development as a league.

In an interview posted on the team’s website, president Mark McCullers was very blunt about where his team and its stadium stands economically.  The money quote:

“The stadium is 15 years old now,” he said. “We don’t want to throw good money after bad. We need to start having the discussions about a longer term facility solution for us and that could take a variety of forms.

“We always want to stay competitive. We don’t want to give anybody any opportunity to think that USA-Mexico should be anywhere but our stadium for any reason,” he added. “That would be  a return on an investment to do some things to make sure we continue to be the frontrunner for this match.”

Despite being an original MLS franchise, the Crew have struggled financially in a mid-sized market hit hard by the most recent recession.  Although the team’s jerseys are sponsored, the stadium is not, which leaves another source of revenue off the table.  Additionally, as part of the team’s financial three-year plan, they are still trying to achieve the 10,000 season ticket holder mark.

It is increasingly hard to look at Crew Stadium in the modern MLS landscape and still consider it state-of-the-art.  In fact, if it wasn’t for the home field advantage the stadium provides over some CONCACAF foes, I suspect the U.S. Soccer Federation would have awarded the most recent Mexico match to somewhere like Kansas City, who’s new stadium is very modern and a place MLS wants to show off as the future.  Despite have 20,000 seats, Crew Stadium has few luxury suits and fancy amenities, making it not as much as a draw for casual fans.

If the Crew are able to secure a site for a new stadium (say downtown Columbus), this would begin the next phase in MLS’s development.  For the first time, a modern soccer-specific stadium built for an MLS team would be replaced by another modern soccer-specific stadium.  This phenomenon is not unknown in other American sports but for a league whose goal for so long was to secure stable, unique locations for its clubs this is an interesting issue.  Unlike convincing a locality to build a stadium for a specific sport and team, MLS will now be going to local government to ask to build another stadium specific for the same sport.  Such conversations are not easy – that’s why MLS was the top lobbyist in the New York government last quarter.  This process will be the next step in MLS’s development, but I think most long-time MLS fans will welcome it as a very positive step for the league.

8 Responses to Columbus Could Kick Off MLS Stadium Project 2.0

  1. Tijuana Robert says:

    Stadiums get old, stadiums become outdated but stadiums, at the end of the day are simply structures to watch soccer. They should never be used to boost interest or boost revenue. IF crew needs a new stadium already that puts lifespan of MLS stadiums at about 5 years.

  2. The original Tom says:

    Depressing. Unless this is 100% privately funded, it should not happen. Plus, old stadiums with character are usually better for fans who don’t have seats in the Suites.

    Public financing of stadiums is a racket. See fieldofschemes.com

  3. Spenser says:

    You have obviously never been to Crew Stadium or its dirt parking lot. It is on the fair grounds and is not a good location. It was a 30 million privately funded stadium with the fair grounds being the only state assistance. The environment is dead. Love the Crew, attended many games there, but the Erector Set is no long term solution.

  4. Charles says:

    Hmmm, never really a fan of the, as Spenser calls them, Erector Set stadiums, and this is the reason, but they are better for revenue than renting.

    I agree with OT, needs to be privately funded. How is Harrison NJ doing after helping to finance the Red Bulls stadium ?

    There are other examples too.

  5. Drew Farmer says:

    Perhaps the Crew should have thought long term b/f building Crew Stadium instead of trying to be the first. I think every city should look at the ridiculous situation in Miami that the Marlins have created by asking for public funds and then ripping off the people by trading and selling their best players. It’s only 15 years old, deal with it. It’s still better than playing at OSU Uni.

    • Danwolf02 says:

      The Crew had to build on the fair grounds because they were kicked out of the Horse Shoe due to renovations. So the place that they could get the stadium built was on the fair grounds. It was either that or dissolve.

  6. Tim says:

    I am torn. I am a big Columbus/MLS fan and while i really feel that its nuts to want to rebuild after 15+ years….I understand why they would want too as well. Crew stadium sits just outside the city and much is going on downtown that would make it a more popular destination for new fans.

  7. Matt says:

    The only problem with that idea, is that there isn’t really any room downtown for a nice MLS stadium.

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