Like the rest of the world during the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, Columbus Crew SC is in a state of “wait and see” in terms of what happens in the future. While the Black & Gold, like Major League Soccer, are optimistic that the remainder of the team’s 2020 games will be played this year — the league postponed matches after just two weeks of play due to the virus’ potential spread — there is no clear timetable for when players can return to training or when matches will resume.
To put it simply, it’s a time of uncertainty. And while there are certainly bigger topics at hand during this hiatus, one concern among fans is how Ohio’s recent stay-at-home order, which was issued by Governor Mike DeWine and went into effect on March 23, and the coronavirus outbreak overall will impact the construction and subsequent opening of the Crew’s new downtown stadium.
The stadium, which broke ground in early October, was expected to open in July of 2021. But with this unprecedented health crisis sweeping across the United States forcing business to stop working and some companies to shut down, does the Crew begin to think about Plan B for home games next season?
”It’s too soon to tell,” Crew president and general manager Tim Bezbatchenko said on an exclusive teleconference with Massive Report. “I think there’s contingency plans that are built into any construction project because, as we all know, a number of things, whether or not it’s weather or ordinances or laws or a health crisis that comes into play. So you always have to work in some buffer.”
What’s working in the Black & Gold’s favor right now, something that doesn’t always when trying to get fans to attend games, is the weather. Columbus experienced a relatively mild winter, which allowed construction crews to get more work done on the project than initially planned and put the stadium construction ahead of schedule heading into the spring. According to Bezbatchenko, “we feel like we’re in a good place,” when it comes to the stadium being built on time and everything is “on schedule.”
The Black & Gold president and general manager also revealed to Massive Report that the club’s understanding is that construction will be able to continue, “provided we can do it in a healthy way,” helping to keep the stadium on track for original deadlines.
”Now, that’s where it is today,” Bezbatchenko cautioned. “That’s the only information I can give at this time. I can’t see what’s happening around the corner. Right now, what I do know is I’m excited that Ohio was ahead of taking more efforts, or more severe efforts, to flatten the curve, which, if it prevents the spread so that we don’t become the next New York or Seattle or other places where there’s more of a large outbreak, we can continue, we never say business as usual, but we can continue on track, moving things along so that we can hit our deadlines.”
Initial plans were that the Crew would move its home games to the new downtown stadium during the middle of the 2021 season, putting the Black & Gold in the city’s Arena District. Sitting behind the Columbus Clippers’ Huntington Park and the Columbus Blue Jackets’ Nationwide Arena, the Crew’s new location relocates the team to the heart of the Columbus sports scene.
The current MAPFRE Stadium site will then be repurposed into a training center and sports complex, featuring the club’s new training facility, OhioHealth Performance Center, as well as fields for the team’s Academy and additional space for a community sports park that is still in the planning stages.
Around the country and the world, the coronavirus outbreak has been unpredictable, forcing many changes to businesses and daily lives. The Black & Gold are not immune to this. The Crew is doing as much as possible to be ready to perform when the 2020 season resumes and the work on the new stadium, as of now, continues as planned with the opening still expected for next summer.
This is an ongoing story and Massive Report will provide updates as they become available.