City leaders continue fighting to keep Crew SC in Columbus

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The vote in Austin, TX Wednesday to approve a site for a soccer stadium has not slowed down efforts in Columbus to keep the Crew SC in its original home. Local investors have been weighing whether to buy the team to prevent it from moving to Texas.

City leaders said Thursday team owner Anthony Precourt's desire to move the team to Austin has been obvious for a while.

"There was that commitment to do a community survey (for a new Columbus stadium) but all of a sudden it was, 'let's pack the boxes and go south'," said Columbus City Council Member Michael Stinziano. "That's been disappointing."

Alex Fischer with the Columbus Partnership has led the effort to connect potential investors interested in buying the team with MLS. He said part of what has made the team attractive to buyers was the support of the Save the Crew movement.

"All of that factors into investors' willingness to put an offer on the table and ultimately become owners of the soccer team," Fischer said.

Save the Crew has lined up more than 11,000 people who have pledged to buy season tickets if there's a new owner. They've also received pledges from hundreds of businesses who say they will buy a sponsorship. The group recently unveiled plans for a new stadium downtown, something Precourt has said in the past he would need to keep the team in Columbus.

Fischer said the vote in Austin Wednesday will not affect his negotiations with MLS.

"What we've done is not worry about Austin is or isn't doing or worry about what Anthony Precourt is or isn't doing," he said. "What we're focused on is whether we've got a local group of investors who can keep the team in Columbus."

City leaders said there were times it's looked bleak whether the team would stay but they're still optimistic it'll happen.

"This entire process feels a little like a soccer match and that it can be long but when there's action, there's real movement going on," Stinziano said.

A lawsuit by the City of Columbus and Ohio Attorney General has been filed to stop the team's move to Texas. That lawsuit cites the "Art Modell Law" passed by the Ohio legislature after the Cleveland Browns moved to Baltimore. That law requires a team owner to give local investors time to buy the team before it can be moved. That lawsuit is scheduled to be back in court in early September.