COLUMBUS, Ohio — When the Haslam family, along with Pete Edwards, purchased Columbus Crew SC in January of 2019, the ownership group didn’t want to just prevent the team from relocating. They wanted to make the founding MLS member one the premier sports franchises in the United States.
This began with plans for a new downtown stadium and took another step on Tuesday with the announcement of the OhioHealth Performance Center due to open in the summer of 2021.
This first-in-class, cutting-edge MLS facility will serve as the future training home for the Black & Gold, featuring locker and film rooms, player and performance areas, a player lounge, sleep/recovery room, weight room, training room, a hydrotherapy area and full-service kitchen.
Since 1997, the Crew has trained at its facility just south of Columbus. While it was one of the first of its kind in the U.S., like MAPFRE Stadium the training facility became outdated and the OhioHealth Performance Center will bring the Black & Gold up to the standards of soccer teams not only around MLS but across the world.
The ongoing partnership with OhioHealth will only increase the Crew's on-field performances.
“It’s a competitive edge,” Crew president and general manager Tim Bezbatchenko said. “Sports science, the way we develop high-driven performance staff is something that we can work directly with the experts at OhioHealth to take us to new heights.”
That competitive edge will help on the field, but can also be of assistance when it comes to player acquisition. In a smaller market like Columbus, it can sometimes be difficult to attract top talent, and having facilities like the OhioHealth Performance Center, as well as the state-of-the-art downtown stadium, can go a long way to encouraging foreign players that the Crew is where they belong.
“The league has changed and evolved and we’re competing globally with some of the biggest clubs around the world in multiple continents for players,” Bezbatchenko said. “Whether it’s Mexico or Holland, we are competing and we want to make sure that we take advantage of the things that we can do to beat them. So it’s not just about beating that team down the road. It’s about building a facility that is truly world-class, and I know that’s what we’re doing here.”
Sales pitches to players using the soon-to-be-built facilities have already begun. And they have been successful.
Just this offseason, the Crew acquired Designated Player signing Lucas Zelarayan from Liga MX side Tigres and Dutch defender Vito Wormgoor from SK Brann. Both of these players have experience with top clubs in other countries and likely would have been less interested in the Black & Gold had it not been for the clear ambition facilities such as the OhioHealth Performance Center shows.
“I’ve been at Ajax where the facilities were great. I’ve been at some in Holland and we had some quite good facilities,” Wormgoor said. “I think it’s very important. When they came with a plan and ambition and showed me the video, I was very happy to see it.
“I think that’s very important to have… and to show all the U.S. that the Columbus Crew are for real.”