It's not really a surprise that Hunt Sports Group is looking to sell at least one of their MLS franchises. It's not much of a stretch to think it was going to be the Crew. The news, a line Don Garber snuck into the last bits of a 9 minute interview, was a shock none the less. HSG has owned the team since it's inception in 1994. The Hunts are the Crew and the prospect of them selling, even sometime in the future, was sure to send shockwaves.
In the times I've talked to Clark and Dan Hunt they reiterated their commitment to the city of Columbus. The Hunts commitment to the city is apparent. Lamar Hunt, facing a crossroads, took the plunge in 1998 and built Columbus Crew Stadium. It was the first of it's kind and still the home to some of U.S. Soccer's biggest games. Garber mentioned that thr Hunts have spent over 100 million dollars since the league's inception on soccer in central Ohio.
HSG once owned three teams in the league, the Crew, F.C. Dallas, and the then Kansas City Wizards. Kansas City was run as an afterthought even though it was in the same city as the Hunt's beloved NFL franchise, the Chiefs. With the auspices of the league, HSG looked to slim down their portfolio and sold the Wizards to OnGoal LLC, a local consortium in 2006. OnGoal has invested in a new stadium, LiveStrong Park, and cemented the team's place in the city.
Recently, the Crew has pushed to expand ties with the city and it's leaders. The Dare to Be Massive and Goal 10K campaigns have established a lot of positive press coverage and has spurred more local sponsorship and ticket dollars into the team. Attendance is up over a couple of soft years even as the team fights for playoff position.
All signs currently point to the Hunts doing everything they can to keep the team in Columbus. Local partners have been hard to find over the life of the team, but HSG has shown they can be patient to find the right buyers. They have also shown considerable loyalty and faith in Columbus, Dallas, and Kansas City, even as the teams went through struggles.
The Dispatch's Adam Jardy has dug into the story and tweeted:
There is zero talk of selling to anyone who has the intention of moving the Crew from Columbus
THat's exactly what I expected out of HSG. There doesn't appear to be a sale on the horizon, but today's comments make it clear, the Hunts are bullish on the prospects of soccer in Columbus; it just may not include them.