The Crew now play 3.5 miles from downtown Columbus at Mapfre Stadium, an antiquated venue that opened as the first soccer-specific stadium in MLS in 1999. "Despite PSV's (Precourt Sports Ventures) significant investments and improvements on and off the field, Columbus Crew SC is near the bottom of the League in all business metrics and the club's stadium is no longer competitive with other venues across MLS".
Austin has been mentioned in recent years by the commissioner of Major League Soccer as a potential expansion city, but an MLS team could arrive another way.
Precourt Sports Ventures LLC, which bought the Columbus, Ohio-based club in 2013, is evaluating the long-term viability of keeping the club in Columbus at a new stadium or relocating to Austin.
The Columbus Dispatch reported Monday that Precourt had grown frustrated with the club's declining revenue and attendance, with the Crew's average crowd of 15,439 ranking 20th out of the league's 22 clubs this season.
While this news seems like the city's best chance to land a franchise in one of the five major sports leagues (Austin is the largest metro area in North America without one), local soccer fans should not run out to start buying Austin Crew kits just yet. Austin citizens rejected a $10 million bond package, 63 to 37 percent, and the Firebirds moved to Tucson.
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"The stadium site itself is of paramount importance and we recognize that private funding will be key in any stadium solution", Precourt said.
On Tuesday, soccer fans in Austin woke up to an exciting possibility: The owner of Major League Soccer's Columbus Crew said that if plans for a new soccer stadium in downtown Columbus can not be finalized in the next year, the team will move to Austin, possibly as early as 2019.
"We met with ownership a month ago to discuss their stadium study and plans and ideas for a new stadium in Columbus", Alex Fischer, the president and CEO of the Columbus Partnership - a group of 60 city business leaders and CEOs, told SI.com.
Moving to Austin would require the ownership group to find a league-approved stadium, according to the news release.
"As attendance League-wide continues to grow on a record-setting pace, and markets across the country seek to join MLS, Columbus' situation is particularly concerning", Garber said. Critically, it included an out clause in case Precourt wanted to move the team to Austin.