Columbus Crew exec says team needs new soccer-only stadium to replace old new soccer-only stadium

When reporters ask me how long a stadium can be expected to last before it becomes obsolete, I like to remind them of sports economist Rod Fort’s classic quip that “I don’t see anything wrong, from an owner’s perspective, with the idea of a new stadium every year.” At least, I thought it was a quip at the time:

[Columbus Crew president Mark] McCullers says the time is approaching when the team’s owner, Hunt Sports Group, will have to decide whether to upgrade Crew Stadium or build a new facility in the area.

“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.”

Crew Stadium actually opened May 15, 1999, which makes it a little less than 14 years old, not 15. And there are examples of teams wanting replacements for buildings younger than that — the Fort quote above, for example, was in reference to Orlando Magic owner Rich DeVos demanding a new arena just 12 years after his existing one opened. (For that matter, McCullers said something similar three years ago, when his stadium was only 11 years old.) But it is possible that McCullers may have set a record for youngest sports facility to be used in the same sentence with the phrase “throw good money after bad.”

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13 comments on “Columbus Crew exec says team needs new soccer-only stadium to replace old new soccer-only stadium

  1. When the team owners throw in $29M of their own money to build the first stadium, those stadia must be so cheaply constructed they fall apart in 15 years. They just need to find the right engineers and enough barrels full of water to properly simulate Ohioans (about 1.5x the mass of your normal person) to put out the right study saying so (or not saying so, as long as they can hide the actual report and only quote it to you).

    That, or after they created a new casino and used revenue from it for the Nationwide Arena, the Crew is still feeling sad that they aren’t in the new “Arena District” and are instead close to the Ohio Historical Society/Village and old fairgrounds site.

  2. Ever since the city decided to subsidize the NHL the Crew have been making noise for more support on the business and city front. I think the city will have to pay or that team will relocate. Did the city really think they couls throw 12mil a year at the hockey team and the soccer wasnt going to notice!

  3. A 14-year old stadium. You’d think the place is dripping rust, crawling with lizards & asbestos. “We don’t want to throw good money after bad,” I could think of something to say but that’s not what this blog is about. Owners: be grateful for what you have. Don’t be greedy. Know your place. Don’t expect the Government & public to cater to your every whim & desire. You are simply another form of entertainment & nothing more special.

  4. I love soccer and will be Dick’s Sporting Goods Park near Denver for the US national team World Cup qualifier and many Colorado Rapids games this summer. I am embarrassed for my sport and the MLS. Don’t spend public money to replace 15 year old stadiums because it is wrong; and also because most sports fans (who don’t have seats in the Exec Suites or Club level) would rather be in an older stadium with character. Spend the public money on an art or history musuem, or a state or city park somewhere.

  5. Tom I think that’s the problem. Crew stadium is neither old, nor does it have character. It’s nothing but a set of aluminum bleachers built on the cheap because the Hunts needed to get out of oversized Ohio Stadium. Yes it was the first soccer specific stadium in MLS but it wasn’t built with quality or longevity in mind like the MLS SSS’s that came after it. Now could it be improved, sure. But it really is lacking compared to the rest of the league so this was bound to happen sooner or later especially with the Blue Jackets getting annual payments now.

  6. Franchise owners will keep on this track until someone says NO, if you want new pay for it yourself.
    This is the time to say NO.

  7. The key is that HSG built this themselves. They didn’t “fail to understand” demands of their customers or anything like that. Crew stadium (and PHP in Frisco, also an HSG development) is a classic example of sports economics… when billionaires are spending their own money, their ‘demands’ are far less exotic than when they can convince governments to give them tax dollars.

    Yes, Crew stadium is ‘spartan’. But most privately built sports facilities are, precisely because there is no payback on additional investment in ‘extras’. Fans may like the extras, and be willing to spend a little extra money for them. But not enough to pay for the construction of same… which is why billionaires want welfare.

    Are we a capitalist society or not?

    We pay car companies to build cars no-one wants.
    We pay insurance and banking companies to provide services and make investments so poor they cannot survive without subsidy.

    And we pay billionaires to put their sports businesses in facilities that could never be justified economically by free market forces.

    The ‘West’ is doing now exactly what it criticized socialist countries for doing in the 1970s and 80s… corrupting their own economies by excessive state influence.

    How are we different?

  8. Chef Joe:

    It isn’t ‘badly built’. It’s just fine… other than the fact that it doesn’t have what the Crew want, which is free upgrades.

    There is nothing stopping HSG from reinvesting in the facility it built (as other Hunt businesses regularly do). Another $10m or so would see new seats, concourse upgrades and the like covered easily.

    But they’d really rather have someone else pay… and given what other sports teams have gotten (even in the very city in which they play), why wouldn’t they expect the public to pay for their upgrades too?

  9. Home Depot Center is 10 years old now, since San Jose is getting a new stadium next year, we should tear our stadium down and build a new one too because we cant get shown up by San Jose!!

    Vamos LA Galaxy!!!

  10. Seeing how Kansas City’s spectacular new stadium brought sell out crowds to a seemingly hopeless market must weigh on the minds of the Columbus management. It’s not enough to have an intimate stadium. You need (want) an intimate palace.

  11. Samsonite:

    True… but watch this space. Time after time, a new spectacular venue opens and everyone has to see it/sit in it. That lasts a year or two, and then it is no longer new and spectacular… and attendance often drops back to historic levels (sometimes below, given the fact that tickets to the new facility are generally far more costly than to the old).

    In cases where the old stadium was a converted facility that was truly appalling and didn’t suit the sport being played, sometimes the bump in attendance becomes long term… but then, what the team needed was a purpose built facility, not necessarily a palace.

    Consumers like new stuff every few years. Most of us trade in perfectly good cars we are tired of to get something new. We don’t need something new. We just want it. The sports stadium extortion game is playing on that as well…

  12. This is nothing new. McCullers has been talking about this for years. This is not just about amenities but the location of Crew stadium is also not ideal. The lack of bars/restaurants in the area, restrictions as it is surrounded by a residential neighborhood are just as big a factor as not having a roof, great parking and access to the Interstate. This is the right time to intensify the discussions–a stadium is not built over night. It takes years to plan, find a suitable site and build a new facility. I’d be upset if they weren’t thinking about it.

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