Columbus Crew's Mapfre Stadium
and others have reported that the MLS's Columbus Crew may move to Austin if the Ohio capital does not agree to build a state-of-the-art soccer stadium downtown.
Owner Anthony Precourt told ESPN that the Crew would need "a dramatic change" in attendance numbers to keep the team in Columbus, but that dramatic change must be facilitated by "a new stadium and a new business model."
"It's really about keeping up with our peers," Precourt said in a statement
, "having strong ambition, and getting to a world-class, state-of-the-art new soccer stadium."
The Crew’s Mapfre Stadium was built in 1999. It was the MLS's first soccer-specific stadium. Despite the Crew's on-field success in 2017, average attendance has hovered at 15,439, good for only 20th out of the league's 22 teams. The MLS league attendance average, ESPN reports, is 21,918.
Sports Illustrated reports
that a group of Columbus business and civic leaders only learned of the potential move recently. (Precourt lives in California.) Public financing is expected to be a key component in Precourt's decision to stay or move, setting up a familiar situation where cities are forced to compete with each other, offering massive subsidies and other ill-advised incentives to lure or retain a sports club.