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Crew president talks Columbus stadium plans

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Crew president and general manager Mark McCullers completed his tour of the two newest MLS stadiums when he recently visited PPL Park, home of the expansion Philadelphia Union.

He previously saw Columbus play in Red Bull Arena against New York on May 20.

Having been with the Crew organization for six months when the league’s first soccer-specific facility opened on May 15, 1999, McCullers is well aware that Crew Stadium is considered “ancient” by today’s standards and addressed the stadium discussion in Columbus with Are there some things you've seen from PPL Park and Red Bull Arena that can be incorporated into Crew Stadium, or is it past that stage?

McCullers: It is what it is. Our stadium has character and a lot of it is built by the fans and the love of the stadium.

We know a roof is something we thought about when we built the stadium. LED boards are something we keep talking about. More theater-style seats are something we talk about. I don’t see those things as something that’s imminent for Crew Stadium.

At some point when we decide are we going to be where we are right now or are we going to be somewhere else? When that decision gets made, then it will be a clearer picture on, "OK, if we’re staying where we are, here’s what need to happen to renovate this stadium and bring it up to standards." Has Hunt Sports Group set a time limit?

McCullers: There’s no deadline. It’s when opportunity presents itself – the right location, the right situation. It may be where we are. There’s been some interesting discussions about what of this happens or that happens on the [fairgrounds] site. It’s kind of hard to imagine some of these things, but people dream big and you never know and I never want to count anything out or put a deadline on it.

More recently, the discussion is about trying to find the Crew a home in the Arena District with the existing sports and entertainment properties down there [Note: Nationwide Arena for the NHL’s Blue Jackets; a baseball park for the Class-AAA Clippers, an indoor/outdoor convert venue and numerous restaurants and bars]. You’ve seen how Philadelphia has done it with football and baseball stadiums and two arenas in the same area. Is that what you envision for the Crew someday?

McCullers: Major league cities figure out ways to get major league sports infrastructure built. Columbus has not figured out how to do that yet and we need to. We have to. We better. That sounds ominous.

McCullers: We won’t be a major league city for long if we don’t figure it out. I’ll tell you that right now. That’s a fact. That’s not my opinion.

We won’t sustain ourselves without a private-public partnership that’s going to keep our facilities up to speed with what’s being built now, which are all being built with public-private partnerships. We’ve got to figure it out.