COLUMBUS, Ohio — Nearly a year to the day after the announcement Crew SC was staying in Columbus, the club broke ground on its new downtown stadium.
Current plans are for the stadium to open in July 2021.Located in the Arena District of Columbus, the new stadium will be next to the current homes of the NHL’s Blue Jackets and the Clippers, a minor league baseball affiliate of the Cleveland Indians.The groundbreaking ceremony had the atmosphere of a party.
Fans were invited to attend up to an hour before the speakers began. Food trucks, giveaways, alcohol and other beverages were all available as a DJ played music.
More than 4,000 people were in attendance, according to club officials.The emcee for the afternoon was former Crew and United States men’s national team player Kyle Martino.
He helped navigate a panel of speakers that included Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther, City Council President Shannon Hardin, Franklin County Commissioner Marilyn Brown, Ohio Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted, MLS Commissioner Don Garber, and three investor operators of the Crew — JW Johnson, Dee Haslam, and Dr. Pete Edwards.
Every speaker made note of how this would not be possible without the fans and the #SaveTheCrew movement that made international headlines over the course of the 2018 MLS season.“Almost two years ago, someone tried to take the Crew from Columbus, … Five days later, over 2,000 Crew fans gathered at city hall, showing the world the movement to save the Crew had just begun,” Hardin said.
Local officials highlighted how the stadium will help revitalize the area and how the conversion of MAPFRE stadium, where the Crew currently play, will provide new services for the entire community.
”We can achieve great things when we all work together,” Ginther said, “I’ve always said from the beginning that the city’s commitment to the crew goes beyond soccer. … We’re creating a community sports park for the entire community.”Said Hardin: “In Columbus, we have a saying: if it’s not for all, it’s not for us.
”The most controversial speaker of the afternoon was Garber, who many Crew fans still blame for creating a scenario in which the Crew might leave Columbus.
A scattering of boos came whenever his name was said and some fans turned their backs on Garber as he spoke.
JW Johnson introduced Garber and said, “We all make mistakes. Please show respect.”Garber highlighted his ties to Columbus, saying, “I was hired by Lamar Hunt.
The first game I ever attended as MLS commissioner was in Crew stadium. … The most difficult thing I’ve ever had to manage through professionally was to find a way to keep this team where they are today.”Finally, the focus turned toward the future.“It’ll be a lot of fun when Cincinnati comes here.
But it will be a lot of fun when Austin comes here,” Husted said to a roaring crowd, referencing the soon-to-be Austin FC expansion team being launched by former Crew owner Anthony Precourt.
Edwards concluded: ”I’m proud to be from Columbus, because in Columbus we fight for what we believe in and we fight for what is ours. And in Columbus, we win those fights.”