The Columbus Crew’s new ownership group will reportedly have to pay a large fee to purchase the club, effectively paying outgoing owner Anthony Precourt’s expansion fee to create a team in Austin, Texas.
According to a report in Forbes, it will take a fee of $150 million to buy the Columbus Crew. A potential ownership group featuring investors from the Columbus Partnership, local investor Pete Edward’s Jr. and the Haslam family are reportedly in discussions to purchase the team from Precourt and pour money into building a new soccer-specific stadium. The Crew currently play in the nation’s first soccer-specific stadium, MAPFRE Stadium, located at the Ohio state fairgrounds, about 3.5 miles from the arena district in Columbus.
While MAPFRE Stadium is still in good condition, it doesn’t contain any of the bells and whistles that many owners want from stadiums in 2018 and beyond.
The Forbes report, which added that Forbes recently valued the Crew at $160 million, second to last in the league, said that Precourt wouldn’t have to pay an expansion fee to move to Austin.
If this report is true along with the potential purchase, it’s a positive ending to a horrible situation, even if it leaves a sour taste in everyone’s mouth. $150 million is about the going rate for MLS expansion clubs in 2018, and while it’s frustrating that Precourt won’t have to pay that fee himself to start his Austin franchise, it will be worth it just to get him out of Columbus.
Regardless, a big offseason is approaching in Columbus. Head coach Gregg Berhalter is expected to leave, whether to coach the U.S. men’s national team or even move to his former club, LA Galaxy. Federico Higuain is edging towards the end of his career, while Wil Trapp and Zack Steffen are coming off solid seasons and could test the waters in Europe or elsewhere in MLS. And the longer the protracted negotiations go, the more that potential Crew signings will avoid the club, not knowing whether they’ll be moved to Austin or not.