Editorial (July 31, 2018) — Major League Soccer is getting ready to celebrate its standout players with the league’s All-Stars facing Italian giants Juventus in Atlanta, GA on Wednesday night. One day before the match takes place, commissioner Don Garber held a Twitter Q and A with fans and members of the media.
Garber answered questions on a variety of topics from the success of MLS in Atlanta to which cities have the inside track to land a franchise when the league expands to 28. Of course, one of the larger elephants in the room didn’t escape discussion. Namely, the future of Columbus Crew SC and whether or not the team will remain in Ohio beyond this season.
Don Garber Reveals Inconsistencies With Respect to MLS’ Stance on Columbus Stadium Situation
In responding to the Columbus Dispatch’s Andrew Erickson, Garber made a telling statement regarding the localities MLS prioritizes vis-a-vis new stadiums. It revealed a rather glaring lack of consistency from the league given recent developments surrounding Anthony Precourt’s intention to move the team to Austin, TX.
“We want our new stadiums to be downtown,” Garber told Erickson. “We have that here (Atlanta), we have that in our new stadium in L.A., we have that in almost all of our new markets.”
It didn’t take long for the entities trying their damnedest to keep MLS in Columbus to chime in. In particular, Columbus Partnership CEO Alex Fischer imparted some rather poignant commentary.
“I find it extremely ironic that the commissioner wants a downtown stadium at the same time that the McKalla site is essentially the equivalent of building a stadium in Buckeye Lake,” Fisher said to Erickson. “I’ve got a home in Buckeye Lake and maybe we should look at putting a stadium there if that’s what they’re interested in.”
One can’t help but note the sarcastic tone in Fisher’s statement. That’s especially true considering the area he’s referencing in Ohio is slightly over 30 miles from Crew SC’s existing home, MAPFRE Stadium. But the fact of the matter is that the McKalla site he also references doesn’t fit with the above narrative from Garber.
All it takes for one to figure this out is to go on Google Maps. If we use the respective City Halls of Columbus and Austin as reference points for downtown, it’s quite apparent that the 24-acre plot of land known as McKalla Place where Precourt Sports Ventures wants to erect a stadium is not downtown Austin. It’s around 10 miles north. Meanwhile, MAPFRE Stadium is 4.8 miles from Columbus City Hall using the most direct route.
Lack of consistency in the rhetoric from league officials and PSV have been among the more frustrating elements of this entire process. Garber touting the success of downtown stadiums while an investor/operator wants to relocate a charter club to a non-downtown facility is the latest example. It smacks of hypocrisy and negatively impacts the league’s credibility.
The Columbus Partnership, under Fischer’s leadership, deserves a great deal of credit for their efforts at making a potential purchase of Crew SC from Precourt a viable proposition. The group remains in regular contact with the league through deputy commissioner Mark Abbott. Fischer has termed the interactions with Abbott “encouraging.” And despite his contradictory stadium comments, Garber closed his answer to Erickson’s question by mentioning the work Columbus business leaders are doing to “find a solution” that enables the club to stay put.
Precourt can make all the changes to his stadium demands in Austin that he wants. Though the latest revelations in the negotiations with the city council show he’s actually willing to pay more than $1 per year rent on the facility, he still won’t pay property taxes. In the end, he wants to construct a stadium at a former toxic waste dump that doesn’t adhere to what the league commissioner himself admits he wants with regard to a new facility.
Perhaps a better alternative would be unpoisoning the well and selling the team.