Throughout this week, leading up to Crew Stadium’s Fifth Anniversary Match on Saturday, May 15, The Crew will feature top moments in Columbus Crew Stadium history. Today, we look back at some of Crew Founder Lamar Hunt’s most memorable moments, including some that will surprise you.
Soccer fans world-wide can vote for their Top 5 Columbus Crew Stadium moments by logging on to thecrew.com and crewstadium.com to vote. The five finalists, including the top moment, will be unveiled in a video presentation at halftime. The Fifth Anniversary celebration will pit the Black & Gold against the New England Revolution at 4 p.m. in a game which will be televised live nationally on ESPN2.
TODAY’S FEATURED CREW STADIUM MOMENTS: Crew Founder Lamar Hunt recalls some of his memories
Crew Stadium, the first major league stadium built specifically for soccer in the U.S., opened on May 15, 1999 when The Crew downed New England, 2-0, before a standing-room-only crowd of 24,741. The opening of Crew Stadium was a signature event for soccer in the U.S. and has helped spawn continued soccer-specific stadium growth in MLS.
In just five short years, Crew Stadium has become a monument for soccer in this country, and played host to a number of high-profile national and international events, including some of the most important soccer matches played in this country. Crew founder Lamar Hunt and family took a major step for soccer in the U.S. by building Crew Stadium. Crew Stadium is a 22,555-seat soccer facility that was constructed in nine months and one day at a cost of $28.5 million.
Hunt recently talked about some of his most memorable moments at, and around, Crew Stadium.
At the top of his list is the May 15, 1999 opening of Crew Stadium. “No one can ever take away the fact the Columbus had the first-ever soccer-specific stadium in America,” said Hunt. “A treasured memory was Jeff Cunningham’s inaugural goal.”
And who doesn’t like winning? Hunt does, and The Crew’s 1-0 win over Los Angeles in the 2002 U.S. Open Cup championship will always be a vivid memory. “The Open Cup is America’s oldest soccer competition, having been played since 1914,” said Hunt. “A championship won at home is always the sweetest.”
The next two memorable moments for Hunt are high-profile U.S. Soccer national team events.
The first is the 2003 FIFA Women’s World Cup. “Three doubleheaders, eight national teams from Germany, Japan, Sweden, Canada, Argentina, and Nigeria, with the highlight being the U.S.’s 3-0 win over North Korea.”
The second U.S. Soccer event was the U.S.-Mexico World Cup qualifier on February 28, 2001. “Twenty-seven degrees, ... say ‘Brrr,’ but it didn’t really seem that cold,” Hunt said. “Ticket buyers came from 37 different states all around America, and the U.S. wins 2-0 in a crucial game in the drive to the 2002 World Cup.”
Another memory that stands out for Hunt is MLS Cup 2001, not only for the magnitude of the game but also when it was played. “San Jose beats Los Angeles, 2-1, in a game played only 40 days after the 9-11 tragedy, demonstrating that America will not be held down,” said Hunt.
And in true Hunt form, he couldn’t just stop at five memorable moments. He offered up a bonus choice and an honorable mention pick.
His bonus pick may surprise some, but those who have been around Hunt, are well aware of his love for landscaping. “The completion of the landscaping including the planting of trees, placement of decorative boulders and location of permanent flower beds,” said Hunt. “It was a four-year project completed just in time for the 2003 FIFA Women’s World Cup.”
Hunt’s Honorable Mention choice highlights just one of the many ways Crew Stadium has been used during the first five years. “The 2001 NSYNC Concert was a great event,” said Hunt. “It was Crew Stadium’s largest ever attendance (26,432), our most youthful audience, and it highlighted a wonderful compatible use for a sports stadium.”
These are just some of the moments that have made Crew Stadium special. Tomorrow will feature another top moment in the history of Columbus Crew Stadium.