There's new hope for supporters of the Columbus Crew SC the team may not move to Austin. The Columbus Partnership said Friday it connected the Crew owner with local investors who want to keep the team in Columbus.
Columbus City officials met with team owner Anthony Precourt and MLS Commissioner Don Garber in New York City last year to convince them to not move the team. That meeting ended without an agreement. Columbus Partnerships CEO Alex Fischer issued a statement Friday afternoon saying that meeting led to these new discussions.
"Post our New York meetings, we were approached by local investors and were happy to introduce them to Mr. Precourt," Fischer said in a statement. "We are encouraged that those introductions have been made and preliminary conversations have been constructive."
The Crew SC issued a statement of its own not committing to stay in Columbus or necessarily move to Austin.
“We do not have commentary to add to today’s reports in Columbus other than to reiterate that Precourt Sports Ventures has – since the original October 2017 announcement of exploring strategic options – remained committed to finding solutions to ensure the long-term sustainability of the club," the team statement read.
Representatives for Precourt Sports Ventures are scheduled to be in Austin next month to present several stadium site proposals to the Austin City Council. Some of the proposals have not gone over well with the public or city leaders there.
"Austin could be very challenging finding the right place for the Crew Stadium," said Rob Vogt, who runs the market research firm Vogt Strategic Insights in West Columbus.
Vogt has studied both the Columbus and Austin markets extensively. He said Austin wasn't necessarily an upgrade for the Crew.
"We have a lot more attributes here in Central Ohio than they do in Austin," he said. "I think it's just a matter of what is the owner looking for?"
Several Austin City Council members proposed a ban on soccer stadiums on public land after Precourt Sports Ventures proposed two plans on metropolitan parks. PSV announced late Friday it was pulling on of those original proposals because of the public outcry.
"They're going to be really challenged to find the right location in Austin," Vogt said. "It's going to take a lot longer than they originally anticipated."
Supporters of the club with the "Save the Crew" movement said hearing of obstacles to moving to Austin give them hope the team may not move to Austin in the end.
"We've always maintained they deserve a team," said John Zidar with Save the Crew. "We just don't want it to be ours."
Austin city officials said there are many people who would like to get an MLS team but there are also many people living near the proposed sites who have concerns about the team's plans.
City officials said they expect a "robust debate" at its meeting on February 15th. That's when PSV will be presenting some of its latest proposals.