MLS Columbus team considers move to Austin

Columbus Crew fans cheer before a U.S. Open Cup soccer match against FC Cincinnati, Wednesday, June 14, 2017, in Cincinnati. FC Cincinnati won 1-0. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Columbus Crew fans cheer before a U.S. Open Cup soccer match against FC Cincinnati, Wednesday, June 14, 2017, in Cincinnati. FC Cincinnati won 1-0. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Columbus Crew soccer team could be making the switch from Ohio to Texas. The Major League Soccer team is considering moving to Austin.

The owner of Columbus Crew says the team is going through growing pains they are talking about leaving Columbus, Ohio, if a new stadium is not in their near future. The team is exploring the idea of moving to Austin in 2019, with initial games played at a temporary facility. It hopes to have a new stadium built in Austin in 2021.

Precourt Sports Ventures, LLC, owns the Columbus Crew SC. Its CEO Anthony Precourt says the team’s current course is not sustainable and that a stadium plan will be a “critical component.” According to a press release, league data shows MLS clubs are most relevant and successful when they play “at a downtown stadium location or at a site that is a destination for the entire community.”

During a teleconference Tuesday morning, Precourt reiterated the fact that his team needs “to have confidence in the market to build a world-class stadium.” He cites attendance, a season ticket base and sponsorship to make the business model to build a new stadium a viable solution.

Precourt also emphasized he is not asking for public tax dollars to fund a new stadium and believes the project would primarily be privately financed. “We’re not asking either city to build a stadium for us,” said Precourt. When asked if he has already started talking with Austin investors, Precourt said that would be premature and he is open to bringing in local investors.

The University of Texas at Austin, which has a facility large enough for games, released a statement Tuesday saying, “We are aware of MLS interest in Austin and have no opposition to exploring possible collaborative opportunities.” However, the club says any deal with UT to host games is also premature.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler released a statement Tuesday saying the announcement was, “Exciting news because Major League Soccer would be a huge success in Austin and the Crew would find tons of fan support. A team would find lots of benefits to being in Austin, though I don’t think there’s support for public funding of a stadium.” In July, Adler told KXAN while the city would welcome an MLS team, he doesn’t want tax money to pay for a new stadium.

“It’s an untapped market for Major League Soccer,” said Precourt of why Austin would be a good home for his team. He also cited the city’s robust economy and multicultural foundation. Austin is currently the largest city in the country without a major sports franchise.

In August, MLS registered two trademarks: Austin FC and Austin Athletic.

While the team continues exploring the Austin option, Columbus Crew will continue playing in Columbus in 2018.

In August, United Soccer League announced a team will return to the city in August 2019, set to play at Circuit of the Americas.

 

 

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