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Does Keeping Columbus Crew Mean Building A New Stadium?

MAPFRE Stadium was the first soccer-specific stadium built in the U.S.
MAPFRE Stadium

Fans cheered inside Endeavor Brewing on Friday after hearing the news that Cleveland Brown owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam were making progress on a deal to keep the Crew in Columbus. But those negotiations hinge on whether city and team officials can nail down a deal on a new stadium. 

Currently, the Crew play in MAPFRE Stadium, which was built in 1999 as the first soccer-specific stadium for a Major League Soccer team. Pat Murphy, who covers the Crew for Massive Report, says that stadium has some drawbacks.

"It was thrown together quickly, and isn't the nicest of stadiums, especially now as we sit here in 2018 and there are soccer-specific stadiums all over the league," Murphy says. "It's just not up to snuff."

He says maintenance of the building and its layout are issues, but the stadium also suffers from larger, harder-to-fix design flaws, like like a lack of luxury boxes and the stadium's location itself.

"There's just not that much around there, and I think that's been a big part of what started this whole thing last October," he says.

There's no signed deal yet to keep the Crew here, but Murphy thinks that if that happens, it's more likely that the Haslams - along with local investor Pete Edwards, Jr. - will work with the Columbus Partnership to build a new stadium.

"I think it needs to be downtown or somewhere with more accessibility, more to do around it," Murphy says. "Because you need to attract those casual fans, you need to have other options for people besides standing in the parking lot, tailgating."

Murphy says the potential owners have visited a plot of land by Huntington Park and Nationwide Arena, in the Arena District. 

"From what I understand, the Columbus Partnership run by Alex Fischer has more or less secured that land, if and when this happens and they want to build down there," Murphy says.

Current team owner Anthony Precourt has been negotiating with Austin leaders about building a new stadium for a possible Austin FC franchise. MLS says they are still committed to bringing a soccer team to the Texas capital, even if the Crew remains in Ohio's capital.

Under Precourt's current plan, his company Precourt Sports Ventures would pay for the entirety of a soccer stadium at McKalla Place, which would be owned by the city and leased back to the team.