Crew To Move To Austin Barring New Downtown Stadium
The owner of the Columbus Crew has announced plans to move the team to Austin, Texas by 2019 barring construction of a new downtown Columbus stadium.
"Despite our investment and efforts, the current course is not sustainable," said owner Anthony Precourt in a press release Tuesday. "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."
Mayor Andrew Ginther said in a statement that the city "did not receive full engagement from the team's ownership" about keeping in the team in Columbus.
Precourt's statement said the viability of a move to Austin would also be dependent on a stadium.
"The stadium site itself is of paramount importance and we recognize that private funding will be key in any stadium solution," Precourt said.
Columbus Crew has been long plagued by low attendance numbers. This year, it ranked 20th out of 22 MLS teams in attendance, averaging 15,439 fans per match. That's down even further from the 2016 season, when Crew ranked 16th in the league with an average of 17,125 attendees.
Multiple media outlets report the latest development comes after Precourt rejected a plan by local business leaders to buy part or all of the team.
Earlier this year, Major League Soccer registered “Austin FC” and “Austin Athletic” as trademarks of the league. One source told the Dispatch a plan to play home games at the University of Texas in 2019 is "all but done."
The Crew is one of Major League Soccer's original franchises and played its first game in April of 1996.
The team's current home, MAPFRE Stadium, opened in 1999 and at the time was the first soccer-specific stadium built for a Major League Soccer club. The stadium's capacity is 19,968.