MAPFRE Stadium

COLUMBUS, Ohio – For Columbus Crew SC owner Anthony Precourt, inspiration for a new stadium can be seen all throughout the league.

The team began a “strategic planning” process last month that served as the beginning of a discussion about the future possibility of moving to a new home from MAPFRE Stadium, Major League Soccer’s first soccer-specific stadium, which opened in 1999.

Many fans received an email linking to a survey that asked questions about location, ticket prices and other factors that would be taken into account when determining a potential new stadium for the club, which is owned by Precourt Sports Ventures and owner-operator Precourt.

Last week, Precourt told that while the research is “the first step in kind of a 100-step process,” he looks around the league and sees that the Columbus facility is no longer state-of-the-art.

“Our facility is 17 years old, and the high-water mark in MLS keeps going up every year, with Orlando and Atlanta coming online next year having new facilities and probably Minnesota the year after and LAFC probably in 2018,” he said.

“We saw what Sporting Kansas City did, in terms of really resetting themselves and being a truly sustainable soccer venue and soccer club based on moving into Children’s Mercy Park, and in Columbus we want to do the same. We need to keep up with the Joneses and plan for our long-term future.”

Crew SC look to "long-term future" via stadium process as MLS venues evolve -

Much has been made of the idea of a downtown stadium, both in Columbus and throughout the league.

The survey asked for opinions on multiple sites within the city’s downtown area, and Precourt admitted that a location closer to Columbus’s city center would be ideal, though he would listen to alternatives.

“I think our league has learned that facilities located in the urban core thrive and succeed,” he said. “[Downtown] is closer to our millennial fanbase, and obviously I think our preference would be to be in a downtown, urban core environment in Columbus. But you have to be open-minded, and that’s part of the reason we’re doing a feasibility study.”

Precourt did not say when a move might happen. The team is nearing the end of a 25-year-lease on the site, but Precourt elected not to reveal the specific date when that lease runs out.

“We have a number of years left on our lease,” Precourt said. “It’s not an immediate concern or issue. … we’ve got a number of years left on the lease, and we have an option to renew for another 25 years at that time. But we’ve got plenty of years.”

But Precourt reiterated that the stadium is still “a very special place” for both club and country, and Crew SC won’t be rushing out any time soon.

“We’ve had lots of success as a club at MAPFRE; our national team has had lots of success at MAPFRE,” he said. “MAPFRE Stadium is the first soccer-specific stadium and it’s still a wonderful place for us to play. We’re very proud to play there. This is just an early exploration into our long-term future in Columbus.”