Columbus Crew SC owner Anthony Precourt announced on Tuesday that the club is looking at strategic options to ensure the long-term viability of the club, including a new stadium in Columbus or a potential move to the city of Austin, Texas.
Precourt Sports Ventures (PSV) acquired Crew SC in July 2013 from Hunt Sports Group, the original owners of the club since its founding as an MLS charter club in 1996.
While there's been an uptick in season tickets and corporate partnerships since Precourt assumed control of the club, Crew SC still rank near the bottom of the league in both areas and in a Tuesday statement PSV cited a "growing disparity in attendance and corporate support compared to its MLS peers and other midsize markets, such as Kansas City, Orlando, Portland and Salt Lake City."
Precourt Sports Ventures indicated that the group has been in communication with city and community leaders in Columbus regarding its concerns since early 2016. Last October the club also hired a firm to look at the feasibility of a new stadium in Columbus.
“Despite our investments and efforts, the current course is not sustainable,” Precourt said in the statement. “This club has ambition to be a standard bearer in MLS, therefore we have no choice but to expand and explore all of our options. This includes a possible move to Austin, which is the largest metropolitan area in North America without a major league sports franchise. Soccer is the world’s game, and with Austin’s growing presence as an international city, combined with its strong multicultural foundation, MLS in Austin could be an ideal fit.”
“As attendance League-wide continues to grow on a record-setting pace, and markets across the country seek to join MLS, Columbus’ situation is particularly concerning,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said. “Despite PSV’s significant investments and improvements on and off the field, Columbus Crew SC is near the bottom of the League in all business metrics and the club’s stadium is no longer competitive with other venues across MLS. The league is very reluctant to allow teams to relocate, but based on these factors, we support PSV’s efforts to explore options outside of Columbus, including Austin, provided they find a suitable stadium location.”
In stressing the "paramount importance" of the stadium site, Precourt also made it clear in the statement that "private funding will be key in any stadium solution."
Crew SC have already clinched a berth in the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs, making the postseason for the third time in the last four years. League champions in 2008 and finalists in 2015, Crew SC are currently the hottest team in MLS with a 6W-0L-3D record in its last nine games.