When Columbus Crew SC fans arrived at MAPFRE Stadium for the team’s much-anticipated Major League Soccer season opener against the New York Red Bulls on Saturday, they noticed something was different. The atmosphere wasn’t the only thing that wasn’t same, as supporters were joyful with the team’s permanence in Columbus instead of strained due to last year’s uncertainty, but the stadium itself, the team’s home until the new venue is built downtown, had a few different traits.
The changes are part of the strategy of club’s new ownership, as team owner Dr. Pete Edwards anticipated during the week.
“We wanted to be different,” he said. “It’s the same stadium, it’s the same guys, but we want people to feel that it’s different. And part of it that we’re here and we’re engaged. Our commitment to fan engagement and fan experience is a hallmark of what we want to be. So, it’s a building process. We want people to say ‘Wow, this is different, this is cool, this is better’, but we also want them to hang with us for a couple of year because it’s going to be way better soon.”
Some of the changes could be seen from the outside as the club now has way more banners hanging from the stadium levels. There are also several of them facing the internal area of the venue.
At the stadium plaza, the club displayed its new player banners, which featured goalkeeper Zack Steffen, defender Jonathan Mensah, midfielders Artur, Wil Trapp and Federico Higuain and striker Gyasi Zardes.
Among the novelties was, of course, the Crew Cat, which was recently brought back to the position of mascot of the team.
Even some minor, but not unimportant changes, were noticed by those attending the game.
But the fans weren’t the only ones to have a different feeling when they entered the stadium. The players’ tunnel was also remodeled, bringing huge team logos on both sides.
It’s a new era in Columbus and fans can see the difference at MAPFRE Stadium.