Ownership agreement reached to keep Crew SC in Columbus

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — A new ownership agreement in the works could keep the Columbus Crew SC in Columbus.

In October of 2017, the city was about to learn its soccer team was about to leave and head to Austin, Texas.

It appeared yet another sports owner would take their team and leave without anyone stopping them.

What Precourt Sports Ventures didn't count on was the amount of fight in the #savethecrew campaign.

"We proved that anything is possible if we work in the spirit of the Columbus Way. Our community’s ability to collaborate, a movement of unified voices, an intense passion for soccer and an unwavering love of Columbus created the heartbeat to drive a once-in-a-lifetime accomplishment," said Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther.

Ventures and Major League Soccer will allow new owners to take over.

The news comes from a press release Friday from Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber:

“After several months of discussions, we are extremely pleased to have reached an agreement in principle with the Haslam and Edwards families for them to assume an ownership position in Major League Soccer and operate Columbus Crew SC starting in January, 2019.

While we work to finalize the deal promptly, we want to state publicly the tremendous collaboration and community support for Crew SC, which has set the stage for a powerful plan that includes a world-class soccer stadium -- a critical step that will help ensure the club’s success on and off the field.

We appreciate all the diligent work from the Haslam and Edwards Families, the leadership from the Columbus Partnership, the City of Columbus, Franklin County and the State of Ohio, Precourt Sports Ventures, and all of those who have contributed over the past several months to create the elements that will solidify Crew SC’s long-term future as an integral part of the Columbus sports scene.”

Dee and Jimmy Haslam and Pete Edwards also said in a statement Friday that they reached an agreement with MLS to assume ownership:

“When we began exploring the possibility of keeping Crew SC in Columbus, the process started with an appreciation for the benefits a professional sports franchise brings to a region. We quickly began positive discussions with Major League Soccer -- the League Office and many of the League’s owners.

“We are extremely grateful for the efforts of the Columbus community, as well as Crew SC fans, to help us efficiently complete and fulfill the requirements and deadlines set by Major League Soccer that will help ensure the success of Crew SC on and off the field.

“Throughout our conversations, it’s been overwhelmingly clear that Crew SC belongs in Columbus, and we are thrilled to have reached an agreement in principle to assume an ownership position in Major League Soccer and to operate Columbus Crew SC. As the stewards of Crew SC, we will always be focused on building a championship caliber team that makes the city proud, creating dynamic and memorable fan experiences and deeply engaging the community to make a positive impact.”

Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein said the city of Columbus and the state of Ohio have filed a notice with the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas to dismiss their joint lawsuit against Major League Soccer and Precourt Sports Ventures.

The city attorney said even he had doubts in the beginning that the Crew SC could be saved.

"Folks were angry at MLS, folks were angry with Precourt and to think on the heels of that people were going to come together to have a new ownership group come in to keep the Crew here I think is unlikely," Klein said.

Anthony Precourt, the owner of Precourt Sports Management said:

"We are pleased with the lawsuit dismissal and the outcome that will ensure Major League Soccer teams in both Austin and Columbus. This elegant solution is the culmination of many months of hard work from Commissioner Garber, the Haslam and Edwards’ families, the local Columbus community, and Precourt Sports Ventures. We are happy for the people of Columbus and Crew SC supporters, who helped rally local government and business leaders to keep Crew SC in Columbus. We are proud to have built a strong club which is in position to be successfully transitioned to new operators in 2019.”

New ownership has pledged $645 million to build a new, 20,000-seat stadium downtown and buy MAPFRE Stadium to remodel it.

The crew will play at MAPFRE until the new stadium is built sometime in 2021.

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