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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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Twitter Reacts: CBJ sweep Lightning in historic win

Mike Thomas

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Last night, the Columbus Bluejackets finished their perfect sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning with an emphatic game four win in Nationwide arena. It was without question the single biggest win in franchise history, sending the Jackets to the second round of the playoffs for the first time ever. But of course, you already knew that.

For your consideration (and to soothe your post-celebration hangover/exhaustion) here’s a roundup of some of the spiciest memes and reactions to the Jackets big win!

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We Are The Champions: Ohio History Center exhibit pays homage to sports

Kevin J. Elliott

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Established in 1974, the National Women’s Football League was a perfect reflection of the times, a groundbreaking movement that mirrored the social landscape. At the height of women’s liberation, the N.O.W., and Billie Jean King’s “Battle of the Sexes,” the full-contact contests held by the NWFL promoted that same statement of equality for women in sports—and in Ohio, the Toledo Troopers won seven consecutive championships in the league, which have to this day, made them the winningest franchise in all of professional football. That the Troopers hold such a coveted record and tell a story of gender politics mostly unheard, is a common theme that runs through Ohio—Champion of Sports, the new exhibit at the Ohio History Center. 

At first, the title of the exhibit is a seemingly audacious, and very Ohioan, statement to make. Champion of (all) sports? Though Ohio natives are as passionate about their teams as any other state in the country, the exhibit gives an almost inherent right to the claim. Our traditions run deep. Our superstars— from Bobby Rahal to Lebron James—have achieved the highest pinnacle of glory. But throughout the museum there are a multitude of stories, like that of the Troopers, that shape that narrative beyond championships.

“Telling the national story of sports can be tough without including Ohio in there,” says the Ohio History Center’s curator Eric Feingold. “Whether you’re talking about the birth of the National Football League or the All-American Soapbox Derby in Akron, to some of the more prominent stories, such as Ohio State football, Ohio has really contributed to this story in major ways.”

The fully-interactive exhibit is divided into six thematic zones—including Character, Adversity, Innovation, Identity, Tradition, and Victory—where each attribute is shown through the lens of Ohio sports. The “Victory” wing, for example, is anchored by the triumph of local boxer Buster Douglas’ unlikely defeat of Mike Tyson, while “Innovation” highlights Ohio’s role in the evolution of the soapbox “gravity racers” used in derbys. “Identity,” by comparison, challenges the shameful use of the Cleveland Indians’ longtime mascot Chief Wahoo, while “Adversity” tells the tale of Youngstown pitcher Dave Dravecky’s World Series dream shattered by cancer. 

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Even the diehard Ohio sports fan will find something they may have never known. While it’s common knowledge that Ohio State and the University of Cincinnati dominated the NCAA men’s basketball tourneys of the early ‘60s, there are stories like that of the UC Bearcats being the first team to start four African-American players, illuminating how these teams and athletes were breaking barriers as well as records and stats. Or even the hidden minutiae of small-town Hiram College becoming the first basketball team to bring home an Olympic gold for the United States. 

“The exhibit is a new approach,” says Feingold of the non-traditional way in which Champion of Sports was designed. “Generally museums are object-driven, but in this case, we’ve worked with athletes, coaches, and fans to collect their oral histories. It’s this idea that you want to try to acquire objects as you’re going along and getting these stories from the people involved.” 

Still, there are over 200 objects procured from the museum’s permanent collection, other museums, like the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame and Museum and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton,  and from private collections, that bring to life these stories—spotlighted are Lebron James autographed rookie jersey and a full-scale Airstream, that “may or may not have” instigated the first examples of traditional “tailgating.” 

As a intentional gesture, the exhibit is not just static with the objects; there are displays of videos that show those oral histories, and fun kiosks to record your own victory dances, but it’s those objects that look forward that have the most pull. Some of Feingold’s favorite pieces in the exhibit come from just a few years back and the creation of Ohio Roller Derby. In that, the museum aims to battle preconceived notions about the strategy of the sport, showing how it’s not a gimmick, but instead a compelling labor of love for the dedicated athletes who participate.

“This is an exhibit more about the human experience and the human condition,” says Feingold. “These objects highlight the intersection of sports and larger issues. Sports is just the entryway into a lot of larger themes.”

Ohio—Champion of Sports is now open at the Ohio History Center. Visit ohiohistory.org for hours and more information.

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Machine breaks down: Lacrosse leaving Columbus

Mike Thomas

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Sorry, Gear-Heads. It looks like the dream of major league Lacrosse in Columbus has come to an end.

According to a statement released yesterday, Major League Lacrosse has announced that the league would be reducing the number of teams from nine to six for the upcoming 2019 season.  The Ohio Machine was one of the teams to be eliminated by the contraction.

“This announcement comes as a terrible surprise to all of us at the Machine,” the official statement posted to the team website reads. “We share in the incredible disappointment in this upsetting news with all those that have supported us over the years. As shocking as this news is, it should not be seen as a reflection of the tremendous success that the Machine, and the game of lacrosse in Ohio, has experienced in recent years.”

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The announcement states that business partners and ticket holders for the 2019 season will be contacted and issued full refunds.

The news comes as some surprise in light of the team’s many accomplishments in recent years. The Machine appeared in four straight playoff berths under head coach Bear Davis, including back-to-back appearances in the MLL Championship game, and a championship win in 2017.

The dissolution of The Machine leaves the future of the team’s stadium in question, as well. Fortress Obetz was the nation’s first purpose-built professional lacrosse stadium, and also served as home to the now-defunct Fashion Meets Music Festival.

So long, Machine. You join the ranks of such bygone Columbus-based teams as The Chill and The Destroyers (though the latter is soon to be revived). Please share your fondest memories of Ohio’s first pro lacrosse team in the comments.

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