Columbus Crew owner pushes back Austin stadium site decision three more months

The city of Austin and Columbus Crew owner Anthony Precourt have agreed to a three-month delay from a planned Feb. 15 council vote on selecting a site for a new soccer stadium, which, guys, this really isn’t going to be ready for a relocation for 2019, and maybe not even for 2020. So either the Crew are looking at multiple lame-duck seasons in Columbus, or playing at the University of Texas’s soccer field, or … wait, why can’t they play at UT’s field anyway?

Or the Crew could just stay put in Columbus, where it has a sweetheart lease deal on a reasonably new stadium and a fan base that isn’t speculative, at least. I still don’t understand Precourt’s obsession with Austin — maybe he didn’t hear that Dean Schlabowske moved back to Milwaukee?


32 comments on “Columbus Crew owner pushes back Austin stadium site decision three more months

  1. Regarding the ‘rent’ payment… what is he renting? Hunt Sports group built and owned the stadium, and he presumably bought both together (PSV is still listed as owner).

    Is he just renting the land under the stadium? Or did some weird swap take place that allowed him to buy the team while pawning off the ($28m in 1999 dollars) stadium and it’s operating costs on the city?

    If he does have a lease on the stadium, has he formally opted out for 2019?

    • Yes, rent is for the land. The stadium and renovations have been privately paid for. He has also provided a very competitive team.

      • “Provided”? He is running a business and, presumably, putting a competitive product on the field is good for business.

        He has not “provided” anything other than an entertainment option. Speaking of the actions of private businesses as though they were public services is not reasonable.

    • State Fair grounds ! Rent to state. State doesn’t pay property taxes. City & county have never had any dealings with the Crew until recently.

  2. I don’t get it either. Austin and Columbus are basically similar places – state capitals and university towns that reinvented themselves as hipster havens. Columbus has shown they can be a good market. The stadium is not downtown but it is not horribly out of reach (it is better located than Bridgeview is). And while it does not have the “amenities” I think it is fine for the fan and it can be expanded a bit.

  3. I would say it’s like when Clay Bennett bought the Sonics, but at least he had ties to Oklahoma City. Precourt is from San Francisco.

    • Precourt has family in Austin, none in Columbus. All things being equal MLS a warm location is always better for scheduling.

      • In July and August a Texas based franchise (*without an air conditioned stadium) is much more likely to have a negative weather effect.

        It’s true that in early and late season games the weather is likely to be better for the fans in Austin, but I don’t think that outweighs the drawback of two months of playing in the Texas summer heat.

        • Rust belt v Sun belt.. population trends, possibility of future split season or switch to some sort of winter season. Also based on Austin government response in last two months much more positive than Columbus response to team in 20 years.

      • Soccer can be played in all weather, as we saw yesterday with Espanyol-Barcelona. But “family in Austin” would explain it — rich people do dumb things for dumber reasons.

  4. At the beginning, Precourt basically said he is looking for a Urban core location and would build stadium himself. Will assume he wants land for free especially in Columbus where it seems he feels he hasn’t been treated fairly.

    • In your opinion, has he been treated fairly or not? If not, why not? I’m asking because I would like to know.

      • I said he feels the city & county haven’t treated him fairly. It wasn’t my opinion that he hasn’t been treated fairly. The previous owner of Crew felt the same as Precourt. If I was to put myself in their shoes, I would be pissed about being in town since 1996 and the other teams in town have publicly subsidized downtown locations and operating subsidies. Perhaps he is upset that not one Columbus bred corporation will do business with the team since 1996.

        • What in the world are you talking about? Most of the Columbus business community has had longstanding relationships with the team. Wendy’s, Huntington Bank, the Schottenstein group, OhioHealth, and a bunch more.

          I’m not going to say things are great with the team right now, but saying things that aren’t even remotely close to true doesn’t help anybody.

          • Just stating what have been given as reasons by people working for the league in articles I read online. To be more specific the local sponsor for stadium & jersey sponsorship we’re never born & bred corporation. Most teams get 90% of sponsor money from those two source. So you agree the other teams in town received downtown locations and operating subsidies ?

          • The baseball team is literally owned by Franklin County. The local government got them a prime location because the local government owns the team.

            Nationwide Arena is much more icky. The Blue Jackets threatened to move and the county unfortunately blinked and gave them a regular subsidy. It’s not something I’m willing to defend.

            The Blue Jackets expressed that they might have to maybe think about possible relocation if they didn’t get free stuff, then they sat down with local leaders and got it done.

            The Crew announced they were leaving unless local governments and businesspeople met vague and unspecific demands, refused to clarify the demands, then didn’t seem to have much interest in good-faith discussions about what could be done.

            Also, the Crew’s stadium isn’t downtown because the Crew chose to build their stadium somewhere that isn’t downtown.

          • I thought it was pretty clear. He wants to be in arena district. Unlike the other teams in town he would pay for stadium. He wants the local big boys Columbus born corporations to get involved. He didn’t want to sell. So far a crappy location was offered and he’s getting low ball offers to buy team.

  5. As you were talking in circles you conveniently left out the bailout of the Bluejackets arena deal. The Crew choose that site because a downtown location was never made available. At the time talk of an NHL expansion was in full swing. The Crew wanted to be downtown with the NHL team but got nowhere with the government & Nationwide.

  6. “As you were talking in circles you conveniently left out the bailout of the Bluejackets arena deal.”

    “Nationwide Arena is much more icky. The Blue Jackets threatened to move and the county unfortunately blinked and gave them a regular subsidy.”

    Um.

  7. Another fact, lowest price tickets in league without MLB & still near or at bottom of league attendance.

    • Alternative facts?
      I understand you want to defend your (?) team, but when posters point out the things you mention as facts aren’t facts you seem to agree and then mention more things that aren’t facts.

      So far the only thing that seems consistent is that you believe Precourt has a long list of wants and that other people aren’t meeting them.

      While that may be true, it’s not normal business operation, it’s a fairy tale. He should meet his own needs. No business that blames it’s customers or partners can thrive, regardless of location

      Also, from your post above:

      “Just stating what have been given as reasons by people working for the league in articles I read online”

      Are these your positions or are you simply posting on behalf of the team (or league)? I am confused as to your position on this, so am asking for clarification.

      • My position is being objective. I respect the hardcore Crew fans , I don’t understand how the ownership is evil when the guy saved the team at a time when Garber would have considered contraction.

    • BTW, Columbus attendance 2013-2017:

      2013 12th of 19 teams
      2014 13th of 19
      2015 16th of 20
      2016 16th of 20
      2017 20th of 22

      In the first three of those years they were less than 500 fans per game from jumping into the top half of the attendance ladder. That doesn’t sound like bad support to me.

      As for the last year or two, I guess telling your fans “thanks for all the cash but we’re out of here and we don’t care what you do, we’re going to Austin” does affect their level of support.

      Who knew?

      • It was two months ago that ownership made announcement that it would explore relocation. Not two years.

  8. Crew stadium capacity is lower than fully half of the league’s club’s average 2017 attendance (as many will remember, the Crew installed a permanent stage which necessitated the removed of a couple of thousand seats a few years ago).

    So… even if they sold every ticket for every game, they still couldn’t finish higher than mid pack in league attendance.

    As for 2017 and it’s 10% attendance drop, announcing you are a lame duck team and basically telling your fans to bugger off isn’t a good way to build fan interest.

    • That’s funny, the USA national team games pack in 22k plus and MLS attendance last year was 22k plus.

        • I’m not trying to “win”, just get to the actual details of Crew support.

          From what I have found, Crew support dropped by about 2k over the last couple of years (that much is easy to establish, assuming veracity of published attendance figures etc). Prior to that it was very much midpack in the league, which is a decent achievement given that the facility itself (thanks to renovations) caps attendance at just under 20k. As noted, the best they could do if they sold out every game would be somewhere in the 10th-12th range of overall current MLS attendance..

          It’s certainly true that Precourt publicly announced his intention to move the club in October of last year. However, it was pretty common knowledge around the team that that was his goal some time ago (certainly since 2016, maybe since 2015).

  9. The Austin obsession is quite simple:

    Austin MSA population, 1990: 846,227
    Austin MSA population, 2010: 1,716,289
    Austin MSA population, 2030 (proj.): 3,035,547