Hunt Sports Group today announced that Crew President & General Manager Mark McCullers has agreed to terms on a four-year contract extension. Per club policy, no further terms of the deal were disclosed.
McCullers, 48, is in his seventh full season as General Manager, having been named to the position on an interim basis on July 9, 2004, and earning the position outright on Jan. 19, 2005. He was subsequently promoted to the position of President, as well, on May 2, 2008. Since then, he has steered the organization to substantive growth and progress.
“Mark has done an excellent job, and we are extremely pleased to retain him as president and general manager of the Crew,” said Hunt Sports Group Chairman Clark Hunt. “The success achieved by the Crew during his tenure is well documented, and he is uniquely qualified to continue to leverage the experiences he’s had and relationships he’s built in that time. We have no doubt that great things lie ahead for the Crew under his leadership.”
Over 12 years of dedicated service to the organization began in December 1998 when McCullers came to Columbus to oversee the development of Crew Stadium, the first major-league stadium built specifically for soccer in the U.S. He was promoted to Executive Vice President of the club in Jan. 2001, before becoming the Crew’s third General Manager.
The club has reached the pinnacle on the competition side under his direction, winning three MLS Supporters’ Shield titles in the last seven seasons and storming to its first MLS Cup championship in 2008. The championship capped a three-year rebuilding plan that was sparked by the signing of Argentine superstar Guillermo Barros Schelotto in 2007. That move brought the club increased international attention and raised its profile on the global soccer stage, and Schelotto went on to win 2008 league and MLS Cup MVP honors.
The Black & Gold became just the second club in league history to win back-to-back Supporters’ Shields, in 2008 and 2009, and it advanced to the CONCACAF Champions League championship round in consecutive seasons, as well. Overall, the Crew has compiled a regular-season record of 80-65-59 under McCullers’ leadership, making him the winningest general manager in club history.
McCullers also initiated the launch of the organization’s youth development program, which includes the Crew Soccer Academy, Crew Juniors and Crew Juniors affiliates, and has grown to approximately 3,000 players in less than five years. It was ranked No. 8 in the country by Soccer America in 2010, on the strength of its incredible run to both the Under-20 and U-19 national championships that summer. In fulfilling Major League Soccer’s youth development mandate, the Crew has established a youth player experience unparalleled in its region, punctuated by the elite Crew Soccer Academy, the professional club’s no-fee player development arm that implements a curriculum developed by the Crew technical staff.
Off the field, McCullers’ vision has led the organization’s multiple enterprises to significant revenue growth over the past five years. In that time, the Crew has increased gross ticket revenues by nearly 60 percent, while ranking among the top five MLS clubs in paid ticket growth, season ticket renewal rates, partial plan sales and individual game sales. Crew Stadium revenue has increased by nearly 64 percent and corporate sponsorship revenue has grown by nearly 65 percent, highlighted by the first jersey sponsorship in club history. That landmark partnership with ICI Paints positioned the Glidden brand as the club’s Presenting Partner from 2007-10 and delivered a qualitative value of over $7 million to the brand that will now be forever associated with the Crew’s championship season and subsequent White House visit.
Throughout his 20-year career, McCullers has maintained a taste for high-impact projects, and facility improvements remain a priority moving forward. Under his leadership, capital investment in the stadium and OEC campus has exceeded $10 million. One such project is the permanent amphitheatre-style stage completed in 2008 that has spurred significant growth in the organization’s concert business, fueled by the Rock on the Range festival that celebrates its fifth anniversary this year. Rock on the Range has enjoyed 125 percent net revenue growth over its first four years.
Another major accomplishment on that front was the completion of a project in 2010 that resulted in the addition of more than 3,000 new paved parking spaces, following a diligent and lengthy quest to secure state funding for parking lot upgrades. Other capital projects have included the renovations of stadium suites, concession stands and the Upper 90 Club.
In addition to his duties as President & General Manager, McCullers oversees the efforts of the club’s charitable arm, the Crew Soccer Foundation, as President of its Board of Directors. Among other accomplishments on that front, he spearheaded the development of CSF’s innovative Referee Scholarship and GOALS for KIDS programs, which helped the club and foundation earn Corporate Caring Awards for Education in 2008 and 2011. He also serves on the Boards of the Buckeye Ranch Foundation, Nationwide Children’s Hospital Foundation, Recreation Unlimited Foundation and Experience Columbus, as well as the Greater Columbus Sports Commission Advisory Board.
As General Manager of Crew Stadium, opened on May 15, 1999, McCullers was a key contributor in the historic venue’s development and construction and he has been instrumental in luring a succession of marquee events to the facility. Among them are six World Cup Qualifiers, including the coveted USA-Mexico final-round qualifier in each of the last three cycles (2001, 2005 and 2009), the 2003 FIFA Women’s World Cup, the 2000 and 2005 MLS All-Star Games, MLS Cup 2001 and the 2001 and 2003 NCAA Men’s College Cups. Prior to joining the Crew, McCullers served nine years at the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission, first as Event Manager for RFK Stadium and the D.C. Armory and then as Assistant Stadium Manager at RFK. During his career at RFK, he helped produce some of the most significant soccer events held in the U.S., including the 1994 World Cup, 1996 Olympic Soccer and MLS Cup 1997.