Columbus Crew owner considering move to Austin
The Columbus Crew could be heading south after the club owner - Precourt Sports Ventures - announced it's exploring the possibility of relocating the team to Austin, Texas if a plan for a new downtown soccer stadium isn't finalized.
Columbus, one of 10 teams to compete in MLS's inaugural season in 1996, have called the Mapfre Stadium home since 1999 when it became the league's first soccer-specific stadium, while teams such as D.C. United and Sporting Kansas City occupied venues designed for other sports.
However, the club's future in Columbus has been put in doubt in a statement from Anthony Precourt, CEO of Precourt Sports Ventures and chairman of Columbus Crew SC, outlining a desire to ensure the team's long-term viability by either building a new stadium in Columbus or relocating.
"Despite our investments and efforts, the current course is not sustainable,” Precourt said. "This Club has ambition to be a standard bearer in MLS, therefore we have no choice but to expand and explore all of our options.
"This includes a possible move to Austin, which is the largest metropolitan area in North America without a major league sports franchise. Soccer is the world’s game, and with Austin’s growing presence as an international city, combined with its strong multicultural foundation, MLS in Austin could be an ideal fit."
Failure to ensure a new downtown stadium could result in the team relocating as soon as 2019, according to Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated.
Precourt Sports Ventures, which has owned the club since 2013, initiated talks with the city of Columbus in 2016.
Alex Fischer, CEO of the Columbus partnership - comprised of a group of business owners in the city - said it was only a month ago that they caught wind of a possible move to Texas, according to Michael Arace and Andrew Erickson of the Columbus Dispatch.
Fischer added that the Columbus partnership offered to buy the team outright or on a 50-50 partnership in order to keep the team in the state capital, but it was rejected.
However, it's believed Precourt, a native of Northern California, has visited Austin on multiple occasions over the years to conduct meetings with "leaders" in the area, sources revealed to Kevin Lyttle of the Austin American-Statesman.
Myers Stadium, home of the University of Texas' Longhorn soccer team, has a slightly higher capacity (20,000) than Mapfre Stadium and would likely be the team's temporary home until a new stadium is complete.
The Texas capital, the largest city in the United States without a professional sports team, is expected to vote on a soccer stadium in December and again in June 2018.
Columbus won the MLS Cup in 2008 before returning to the final in 2015 and losing to the Portland Timbers.
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