I believe that the best path to solve the complex needs of our community is to invite folks to use their imaginations, and be ever on the search for new ideas. I hope today’s proposal serves as an invitation for us to imagine and give shape to ways we can save and build on these sports and arts community assets.
The stakes are high as we seek to build a great city and work to recruit some of tomorrow’s greatest businesses and to win the war for talent, talent that has many options of where to live, work and play.
We are a smart and open community, and, when challenged, it is best if we show ourselves at our best, our most creative, our most understanding. In addition to the necessary frank and tough talk that is happening right now, I believe progress on this issue will be aided through positive idea generation and the invitation for many hands to help build a sustainable solution. Like we do with issues we are working on every day at Thee Columbus Foundation – hugely difficult issues ranging from the opioid crisis to family homelessness – we simply must be committed to find opportunities in the challenges we face.
I am as disappointed as anyone about where this issue is for this community right now, and certainly am not here to defend the way this has been handled by MLS and the Crew’s ownership. It is obvious that they hope that something can be worked out in Austin to allow for them to move. I don’t – I want the Crew to stay. However, it may not work out for them to move to Austin, and, while our feelings may be hurt that they tried, I just want them to stay in Columbus for a long time – under this or any other ownership.
The warning signs about challenges to the Crew’s financial well-being and future have been obvious and clearly articulated for years. Ticket sales haven’t been where they need them to be, and their stadium and jersey sponsorships are below market. There is little doubt that a move to a downtown stadium would help all of those get to the point where they need them to be, but, they could only happen if he and MLS make a clear, binding commitment to not move the Crew out of Columbus.
I barely know Anthony Precourt, and I wouldn’t give him or the MLS any style points for how the past month’s communications have been handled. However, I do respect the fact that he owns this team, plain and simple, and I believe our best chance to save the Columbus Crew, its youth programs and other benefits it brings to Columbus now and could in the future as the sport continues to grow, is to generate ideas to try to work out a solution that works for this or a successor owner, and for Columbus.
The Mayor and Partnership have done yeoman’s jobs in keeping formal conversations going as best they can in the face of a less than enthusiastic embrace of any dialogue, and we should all be thankful that they put themselves out in front in search of results.
A huge shout out to the #savethecrew folks – they have brought the kind of positive energy to this that it will take to see our way through the numerous obstacles to success. at kind of rallying is such an important ingredient to a community’s success and strength.
Here’s to hoping that this presentation will have at least a “Butterfly Effect” as we continue our quest to build a truly championship city, through sports and the arts, for all.