Saturday, July 3, 2021, did not feel real. It was kind of the same way October 16, 2017, did not feel real.
I’m partial to July 3, though.
Walking to Lower.com Field, the Columbus Crew’s new downtown stadium, from the parking garage was electric. I’m not from the heart of Columbus, despite how much time I spend there. But the location of Lower.com Field opened a whole new side of the city for me.
I’ve never been past Huntington Park, and my friends and I agreed, there’s so much more to Columbus than we thought.
We made the trek more than two hours before kickoff, but there was black and gold everywhere we looked. On every restaurant patio, in every car, on every sidewalk. I’ve never seen so many Crew fans at one time not sitting in the stands at a game.
My friends and I circled the stadium, taking in the grandness of it all. The pictures are amazing, but there’s so much more to it than what they can show.
With plenty of time until kick, we went back to join the march.
“The stadium will always be there to explore,” my grandpa said, trying to convince my sister. “There won’t ever be a first march in again.”
Fighting against the crowds swarming towards the field, we finally saw the mass of people ready to make history. And right in the middle was former Black & Gold goalkeeper Zack Steffen, team investor-operator Dr. Pete Edwards and former forward and current club Director of Team Strategic Partnerships and Business Development Dante Washington.
The next thing we knew, we were right in the heart of it all, watching all of these people who have been beaten and battered by the events of the last few years rise to march in triumph with a championship team awaiting their arrival.
The stadium itself was grand. It was big and looming and permanent. It seemed to solidify what has seemed unbelievable: the Crew is in Columbus to stay.
And then there was the crowd. It grew and grew until flags were waving from every corner of the stadium. It didn’t take long for the team’s new home to be absolutely rocking.
But what made that day awesome, aside from the grand fixtures and sea of black and gold, was watching my dad experience it all.
That man loves hard. And the Crew is his team, so he loves them hard. To get to watch his passion that has gone with the team through highs and lows on the pitch, the Save The Crew movement and now in a brand-new stadium that was once an impossible dream was the highlight of my game day experience. And I know there were stories like his all around us.
It isn’t right away that a new house truly feels like home. Even though Lower.com Field was everything Crew fans have dreamed of and more, it’s going to take a while for that comfort to take effect. If you’ve ever moved homes, you know the feeling. I’ve been to Columbus Crew Stadium more times and with more people than I can count. It was my second home.
Regardless, there was still so much that felt familiar. The public address announcer, the chants from the Nordecke, the guys on the pitch, even the birthday shoutouts on the big screen. Some things never change.
I am just so thankful for a place to experience sport together. Saturday, with my dad, my grandpa, my sisters and my friends, it felt better than a dream.
Lower.com Field may not feel like home yet. But it will, and that’s massive.