COLUMBUS, Ohio – Fresh oFf a four-year contract extension announced by Hunt Sports Group last week, Crew president and general manager Mark McCullers recently sat down with MLSsoccer.com to talk about the state of the team and plans for a future stadium.
MLSsoccer.com: How does an original MLS franchise like Columbus stay relevant with so many new teams and stadiums coming on board?
McCullers: My business card says “charter member of Major League Soccer.” That’s something we take a lot of pride in. We’ll always be a charter member of Major League Soccer. That gives us a certain stature in the league and I like that.
Being part of a young league that is very dynamic and changing makes you stay fresh, also. It makes you to have to be innovative and I like that also because, if there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s the status quo.
MLSsoccer.com: The three immediate goals for the organization as you see it are to get naming rights for Crew Stadium, a jersey sponsor, and nearly double the season ticket base to 10,000. Aren’t a new or renovated stadium and training facilities equally as important?
McCullers: I would put those as not mission critical when talking about this four-year contract term. They’re certainly things we have been talking about that we don’t want to fall off the radar, but if we can do the three things I’m talking about right now, we’ll be financially stable.
In fact, we’ll have some resources that can help facilitate some of those other types of projects.
MLSsoccer.com: Do you need a new stadium to draw better?
McCullers: I don’t think so. As a professional sports market, as an organization, we should be able to deliver 10,000 season ticket-holders. We’re seeing a lot of growth in the Nordecke [supporters section], in that demographic, and that’s going to continue to be an important demographic in achieving that goal.
We’ve have greater corporate support in terms of season tickets. That’s an area where we’re really deficient.
MLSsoccer.com: After numerous offseason moves, what’s your assessment of the team after five matches?
McCullers: There’s some things that look really good and some things that don’t look so good. I don’t know that that’s not to be totally unexpected.
The way our defense is playing is very encouraging. I’d rather have that be the part of the team that we feel really good about and continue to work towards the element of the offensive side.
In preseason we looked really good, so I’m a little bit surprised that we’re not more in sync than we’ve shown offensively, but I’ve seen it, so I know it’s there.
MLSsoccer.com: The Ohio Machine will be an expansion team in Major League Lacrosse for the 2012 season. Will they play in Crew Stadium?
McCullers: There’s no agreement yet. I think this market wants a Major League Lacrosse team and we definitely want them as a tenant. I’ve always said when people want the same thing they’ll figure out how to get it done. Anytime we can add more programs to the stadium, it raises our profile and helps our bottom line.