A statement on behalf of the 107IST Board of Directors
The 107IST Board of Directors is in solidarity with Crew supporters in opposing a proposed move of the Columbus Crew to Austin.
Columbus Crew SC was one of the ten original members of Major League Soccer. Lamar Hunt was the primary investor in the club and was a pioneer in founding Major League Soccer. Hunt was also behind the construction of Mapfre Stadium, one of the first soccer-specific stadiums in the United States and home to some of the USMNT's most memorable international matches. Rich in history, Columbus Crew's story is in many ways the story of the growth and development of Major League Soccer in the United States.
On Tuesday, current Crew owner Anthony Precourt announced that he is prepared to move the club to Austin, Texas in 2019 if he can't get a downtown stadium, in spite of the fact that there is local business and community interest in buying the club and keeping it as a civic asset. And now it appears that, while he was having conversations this year with the Columbus Partnership about plans and ideas for a new Columbus stadium, he had already been holding separate conversations with folks in Austin about a possible new stadium and team move to Texas.
The timing of the announcement could not have been worse. If ownership had a shred of decency, they would have dropped this bombshell before nonrefundable season ticket renewals were due; or at the very least they could have waited until AFTER the season, as the team is right in the middle of a good run of form heading into the playoffs.
It's impossible to say what Precourt's initial intentions were when he invested in the Crew in 2013, whether his decision to move the team is recent, or whether that was his plan all along, in order to avoid hefty expansion fees for a new MLS franchise. Either way, the move is wrongheaded.
If it can happen to a team as foundational to the origins and history of MLS as the Columbus Crew, it can happen anywhere.
Team owners, management, and front office staff people come and go, but supporters remain and persist. If Precourt wants to purchase a team elsewhere or invest in an expansion franchise he is welcome to do so; but he should leave the Crew out of his machinations. Columbus Crew as a team and institution belongs to the city of Columbus and to its supporters, and that is where it should remain.