Just in time for Austin to vote today to move closer to a stadium agreement for the Crew, we have another stadium proposal out of Columbus.
So let’s compare.
- They’re roughly even on aesthetics. Each stadium looks cool and has a roof over the stands. See Austin and Columbus.
- Each plan offers something for the community. The Austin City Council has won a lot of concessions, including one for 130 affordable-housing units. The Columbus proposal includes futsal courts for the community.
- Each one appears to be truly soccer-specific, with no pointyball tenants.
- Each one appears to be grass.
- Capacity is somewhere between 20,000 and 25,000, which seems reasonable.
All good. Here are the differences.
DISTANCE FROM DOWNTOWN
One complaint about Columbus Crew Stadium is that it’s too far from downtown. It’s really not. (It’s also close to a university that’s pretty substantial, offering up a lot of people from the demographic MLS covets.)
Oh, 3.7 miles isn’t close enough? OK then. The new proposal is 1.4 miles from the same spot. Actually not a much shorter drive, but now we’re talking about potential walking distance.
And here’s Austin …
And that’s generous. The site I picked is on the north side of downtown. I was tempted to pick the statue of this guy …
The distance is, conservatively, 10 miles.
If this were an expansion bid and not something involving an existing owner, Don Garber surely would’ve shrugged and checked in on Sacramento’s ownership group.
That said, here’s the last difference …
REQUIRING AN ORIGINAL MLS CLUB TO MOVE FROM A STADIUM BUILT FOR THAT CLUB, THEREBY ALIENATING FANS ALL ACROSS THE LEAGUE AND UNDERMINING THE LEAGUE’S CREDIBILITY IN ALL FUTURE DISCUSSIONS WITH MUNICIPALITIES AND PROSPECTIVE OWNERS
- Austin: Yes
- Columbus: No
We do have to admit a couple of unpleasant things here. This effort to Save the Crew — the stadium proposal, the 10,000-season-tickets-and-counting pledge, the engagement of a business community that frankly hasn’t done enough to this point — wouldn’t exist if Anthony Precourt wasn’t looking to move the team.
So MLS has to find another way to press its clubs to do better. If you want to add that to your promotion/relegation talking points, fine, but bear in mind that a lot of English owners don’t build or renovate stadiums precisely because they don’t have the guaranteed income of top-division soccer. (See Reading.)
But that’s a long-term concern. In the short term, if MLS doesn’t immediately make the Columbus stadium vision its top priority, then it’s going to be dead to a lot of its longest-serving supporters.
See more Columbus stadium renderings at Massive Report.