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Op-ed: Mapfre Stadium sucks, support sucks, Precourt doesn’t suck [that badly]

Steve Croyle

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Let’s be honest.

Anthony Precourt isn’t exactly a forthright individual, but his decision to move the Crew is sound from a business perspective. Despite the furor over his efforts to relocate to Austin, Columbus has not supported this team nearly as much as people are claiming. Attendance is consistently low, as is revenue. Success on the field means little because over the lifetime of the franchise, postseason attendance has been lower than regular season attendance.

Even Soccer Standings Digest referred to Crew attendance as a “free-fall.”

(Side note: We are not referring to those of you who have been season ticket holders since day one. Your support is not in question. But unfortunately, a small, dedicated group of Crew fans cannot carry the weight of the entire city.)

Why wouldn’t Precourt and MLS want to move?

Mapfre Stadium is a cheap, soccer-specific piece of crap, hastily erected at the fairgrounds because the Ohio Exposition Center could leverage a low cost lease into fleecing soccer fans for parking. They also banked on the MLS folding, and being able to buy a bargain arena for concerts during the Ohio State Fair. Mapfre is too small to afford the team and the MLS the seating potential required by today’s standards. Additionally, the location—which is isolated from everything other than a sketchy neighborhood, Lowes, and the State Trooper Training academy—is not conducive to stimulating attendance. It’s a detriment. Every week thousands of people talk themselves out of going to a game because it’s a drag. There are no bars or restaurants within walking distance for pre and post game festivities. There’s also no walk-up traffic, like you see at Huntington Park.

Columbus’s leaders dropped the ball, much like they did when Stone came calling. They were clueless about craft beer, just as they were clueless about the success the MLS is enjoying in other cities. The leaders of this community didn’t ask why other teams were drawing twice as many people to MLS games. They didn’t investigate if moving he Crew to the Arena district might help bring people downtown during the NHL’s offseason. Nope, they sat around scheming to give developers more tax breaks while the owner of the Crew had to figure out how to turn around a failing franchise. He’s no saint, but he definitely isn’t a villain.

Nobody wants to lose the Crew, but failing to be honest about why Precourt is trying to move the team isn’t going to solve the problem. We didn’t get behind the Crew until the team started packing its bags. That’s the only leverage the MLS and Precourt have. Precourt doesn’t owe us anything.

If we want to keep this team, we need to make things right. That starts with facing the truth.

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Sports

Columbus is a frontrunner to host return of the NHL in proposed plan

Mike Thomas

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With some teams telling players to report for workouts on May 15, the future of the current NHL season is still anything but certain. For now, it seems hockey commissioner Gary Bettman is eyeing a a plan to finish out regular season play by centralizing games at four locations. According to a report from the New York Post, Columbus and the facilities at Nationwide Arena are among the frontrunners being considered to host one of these proposed "quadrants," should the NHL resume play this summer.

Hockey blog thehockeywriters.com offers a deep-dive into the many factors that have put Columbus on the short list of candidates for this modified NHL season, including the abundance of hotels in the area of Nationwide Arena, the more-than-adequate facilities of the arena itself, and the encouragingly low number of Covid cases in Franklin County.

While it's still way, way too early to say whether or not this plan will move forward, it's encouraging nonetheless to see Columbus recognized as a frontrunner for the return of national televised sports. Just don't count on sitting in the stands with 80k of your fellow fans anytime soon.

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Sports

Memorial Tourney gets mid-summer date but will fans be allowed?

614Now

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It may be a little early to break out the polo shirt and comfy walking shoes, but the good news is that one the city's most visible sporting events will be held this year after all. The big question remains: will Gov. DeWine allow fans to attend?

Thursday, the PGA Tour announced The Memorial Tournament will play the week of July 13-19 at Muirfield Village Golf Club and feature an increased field from 120 to 144 players. The invitational’s one-time expanded field size allowance will provide additional playing opportunities for touring professionals in light of the TOUR’s reduced schedule.

“This is an unprecedented time in our world, as well as the world of sports,” said Founder and Host Jack Nicklaus. “I can’t emphasize enough the message related to doing your part by social distancing and helping our nation and world by slowing this pandemic. But while we all need to come together and be strong, we also need to be understanding and flexible."

Recognizing Governor DeWine’s Ohio Stay at Home order and public gatherings ban guidelines currently in place, the Memorial will proceed with an understanding that its operation may require alterations. The Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide will continue to offer patron badges, enhanced with a special offer that includes honoring original presale badge rates – starting at $185 for a weekly patron badge – and a complimentary $20 merchandise card (limit one per order, per household) redeemable at all on-site golf shops during Tournament week.

The Tournament plans to monitor the State of Ohio COVID-19 regulations and will employ changes relative to patron access if needed. If it is determined that the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide will be staged without patrons, a full refund policy will be implemented.

“This has been a couple months we would soon like to forget, but hopefully we can make this a summer to remember," added Nicklaus.

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News

Goodbye Yellow and Black? Columbus Crew could change name

614now Staff

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With the announcement of the new downtown stadium in the post-"Save the Crew" era, the future of Columbus Crew SC seemed secure.

Now, a report from The Dispatch is once against casting doubt on the club's continued existence—at least in its current form. According to "sources close to the Crew’s front office," management is giving serious thought to changing the team name, colors, and logo by the time the new stadium opens in the summer of 2021.

For commentary on the situation, including a statement from a team spokesperson, read the full rundown at The Dispatch.

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