It took 437 days, but the future of the Columbus Crew SC is secure. Major League Soccer announced that MLS has an agreement in principle with a new ownership group led by former team doctor Pete Edwards and Cleveland Browns owner Dee and Jimmy Haslam to assume an ownership position in Major League Soccer and operate Crew SC on an interim basis on Jan. 1 until a deal is finalized. The Crew is Saved!
“After several months of discussions, we are extremely pleased to have reached an agreement in principle with the Haslam and Edwards families for them to assume an ownership position in Major League Soccer and operate Columbus Crew SC starting in January, 2019,” MLS commissioner Don Garber said in a statement.
“While we work to finalize the deal promptly, we want to state publicly the tremendous collaboration and community support for Crew SC, which has set the stage for a powerful plan that includes a world-class soccer stadium -- a critical step that will help ensure the club’s success on and off the field.
We appreciate all the diligent work from the Haslam and Edwards Families, the leadership from the Columbus Partnership, the City of Columbus, Franklin County and the State of Ohio, Precourt Sports Ventures, and all of those who have contributed over the past several months to create the elements that will solidify Crew SC’s long-term future as an integral part of the Columbus sports scene.”
Sources have indicated to Massive Report that additional technical announcements are expected in the coming days, including a head coach and technical director.
The future of the team has been cloudy since former owner Anthony Precourt announced he was looking to move the team to Austin, Texas by the 2019 season if they didn’t get a downtown stadium. It was clear early that PSV invested in one route in the “parallel paths” as they invested all time and effort to getting a stadium deal in Austin.
With an owner looking to get out of town, the team would be saved by a combined effort of dedicated fans, city leadership and local investors. The Save The Crew movement kept hope alive during the long offseason of discontent and the fate of the team in flux. The indefatigable attitude proved infectious as thousands took the season ticket pledge and hundreds joined as business allies.
City leadership came together across partisan lines to find ways to keep the team in town. Alex Fischer and the Columbus Partnership worked with local government to build out a plan to support new owners. That came together in a Memorandum of Understanding that was agreed to by the Columbus City Council and Franklin County Commissioners with funding support from the State of Ohio earlier in December.
With visible community and civic support, the Haslam and Edwards Families saw a chance to turn the Crew into a premier team in the league. The ownership group paid the $150 million fee to take over the team and announced an ambitious plan to replace MAPFRE Stadium with a downtown stadium while also unveiling a new training facility to redevelop MAPFRE Stadium into a public park.
“When we began exploring the possibility of keeping Crew SC in Columbus, the process started with an appreciation for the benefits a professional sports franchise brings to a region. We quickly began positive discussions with Major League Soccer -- the League Office and many of the League’s owners,” Edwards and the Haslams said in a joint statement.
“We are extremely grateful for the efforts of the Columbus community, as well as Crew SC fans, to help us efficiently complete and fulfill the requirements and deadlines set by Major League Soccer that will help ensure the success of Crew SC on and off the field.
“Throughout our conversations, it’s been overwhelmingly clear that Crew SC belongs in Columbus, and we are thrilled to have reached an agreement in principle to assume an ownership position in Major League Soccer and to operate Columbus Crew SC. As the stewards of Crew SC, we will always be focused on building a championship caliber team that makes the city proud, creating dynamic and memorable fan experiences and deeply engaging the community to make a positive impact.”
Now with committed ownership, deep pockets and an apparent willingness to spend, the Crew are poised for a true new era. With a coming new stadium in the Arena District and local ownership that understands the team’s history and its place in the community, the team could rise as one of the standard bearers of MLS.