Holy shit, you guys.
Columbus Crew owner Anthony Precourt is set to move team to Austin, Texas, in 2019 if downtown stadium can't happen in Columbus. Story soon.— Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) October 17, 2017
This late-breaking bombshell from Grant Wahl was almost immediately confirmed by our colleagues at Massive Report. Barring some breakthrough in negotiations with the City of Columbus, it looks like 2018 will be the final season for Columbus Crew SC.
Sources within the club are still claiming that a deal for a new stadium to replace MAPFRE in downtown Columbus is still possible. But according to the Columbus Dispatch, Anthony Precourt has seemingly already made up his mind. MLS reportedly filed trademarks earlier this year for “Austin FC” and Austin Athletic,” and a deal to have the team play home games at the University of Texas is “all but done.”
The Dispatch even indicated that Precourt may have intended to move the team all along after purchasing the franchise at above market value in 2013. Local business leaders in Columbus have reportedly been working to help make a new stadium deal happen and even purchase minority ownership stakes in the club; Precourt thusfar hasn’t entertained their offers.
Why does this matter to Fire fans? A few reasons.
First, they’re arguably our biggest local rivals. We have our history with the likes of DC and New England, but That Yellow Team are our unfriendly neighbors. They’re the Sunderland to our Newcastle. Having our biggest rivals packed up and shipped off to freaking Texas would ultimately hurt the Fire. Every sports team needs an arch-nemesis.
In that same vein, Section 8’s trips to Firehouse East would fade into history. This would have a profoundly negative impact on Fire supporters, for whom the trips to Columbus offer a unique bonding and community-building experience.
Finally, as much as we love to dunk on them, the Crew have a lot going for them. They’re a charter member of MLS and have one of the strongest, most loyal fanbases in the league. MAPFRE was a Soccer-Specific Stadium before Soccer-Specific Stadia were a Thing. They’re an indelible part of the character of this league. If MLS can stand by and let this happen to Columbus, they can do it to anyone. There but for the grace of Ante Razov go us.
We recommend checking in on Massive Report for more comprehensive coverage of what is suddenly one of the biggest stories in MLS this year.