The moment has finally arrived that Columbus Crew fans have been waiting for. The club announced Wednesday afternoon that a full capacity crowd will be allowed for the last-ever game at historic Crew Stadium on June 19 when the Black & Gold hosts the Chicago Fire. The Crew collaborated with local health authorities to open up the stadium to a full audience in what will be the first non-capacity restricted game since March 1, 2020, when the Black & Gold beat New York City FC 1-0 in front of a full house.
“The ability to open historic Crew Stadium to full-capacity crowds for our final match allows us to give our storied venue a proper send-off,” Crew president and general manager Tim Bezbatchenko said in the press release. “After an immensely challenging year for our community battling the pandemic, we are thrilled to be able to celebrate this momentous occasion by welcoming back large groups of our loyal supporters to what has been our home the past 22 years. We look forward to seeing everyone dressed in Black & Gold while chanting, cheering and celebrating with us at Historic Crew Stadium later this month.”
It was already going to be a memorable night at historic Crew Stadium, the first soccer-specific stadium in MLS. Add on now that the match will be seen by a full crowd of fans and it will make June 19 even more special. As far as health and safety protocols go, there will be no mask or social-distancing requirement in the stadium for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic started. Tailgating in the general parking lot will be allowed but the event will remain cashless with only digital paying allowed.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic started back in March of 2020, the Crew has had a capacity limit to all its home matches at historic Crew Stadium and a requirement for all attendees to wear face masks. The 2020 season attendance was a mixture of no fan attendance if there was a spike in COVID-19 cases, 150-200 guests of the team or the standard 1,500 attendance limit. In 2021, the capacity limit expanded from 1,500 to 3,000 with last Saturday’s match against Toronto FC allowing full sections of seating with only fully vaccinated people.
More than 45 percent of the Ohio population has received its first COVID-19 vaccine with 40 percent of those having been fully vaccinated against the virus. In Franklin County, more than half a million residents have finished their vaccine requirements while the state of Ohio is pushing down towards having a daily case count of less than 200 per day. While the COVID-19 pandemic is still not over, steps towards the world as we knew it before it started are happening. The Columbus Crew within the last month has re-opened training to media members, will now allow full capacity at its games and no longer require PPE at matches.
When the ball is kicked off at historic Crew Stadium on June 19, it will break a 475-day streak without full attendance for an MLS match in Columbus. The defending MLS Cup champions say farewell to its 22-year home in a little over two weeks against the Chicago Fire before moving into New Crew Stadium in downtown Columbus on July 3 against the New England Revolution.