A familiar and friendly smile with 20 years of passion for the Black & Gold welcomes Crew SC supporters to every home match
That smile belongs to Dave Stockwell, a member of the MAPFRE Stadium Experience Team, who has been with the club for every season since 1996.
Stockwell grew up “all over the East Coast” as his father served in the U.S. Navy, but he ultimately found a home in Columbus when he moved to the Capital City for a job in 1992.
Playing soccer growing up, the love of the game is nestled in Stockwell's roots and he’s managed to consistently keep it a part of his life. Imagine his excitement when Major League Soccer announced its first team would be in the Capital City.
“When they started a soccer team, I was like, ‘Oh yeah! We gotta have one here,’” he says with a smile. “The absolute first one and then the first stadium, and it’s like, ‘I gotta be here for this.’ I was going to be here one way or the other.”
Stockwell first got involved with Crew SC through the ever-growing soccer community in Columbus.
“When we started out, I was a coach, had my own little travel team,” he says. “One of my soccer moms was down watching the Crew all the time at Ohio State when they were practicing. She asked anyone if they wanted to volunteer and basically the whole team came down and volunteered.”
For the first two years of the club’s existence, Stockwell embraced his role as a volunteer. He ran the “Snicker’s Kick” - an inflatable where soccer fans could practice their target skills - complete with superstitions of not entering the stadium before halftime or before the Black & Gold were leading. Before eventually becoming an area coordinator, his next task included contests with the mascot.
“I started doing the slingshot crew with Crew Cat and another person at halftime, firing t-shirts into the crowd,” he says. “We got one over C-deck one time […] He just leaned back and fell all the way to the ground with it and just let go.”
It may have been the feat of shooting the farthest t-shirt or just the joy he felt working at the stadium, but Stockwell ultimately decided he wanted to officially join the staff. It was time for a talk with his administrator.
“The third year we were down at the Shoe, I said, ‘Look, I come down here all the time. I might as well get paid for being down here. Just make me an usher,’” he says. “She decided she didn’t want to make me an usher. She made me a supervisor. She put me up on B-deck in the middle where Lamar Hunt and his staff sat.”
Working closely with the club’s owner at the time, Stockwell quickly learned the significance of the supporter experience. The enthusiasts who have been with Crew SC since day one spawn some of Stockwell’s fondest memories and even bring tears to his eyes as he ruminates the beginning of a new era.
“When we first started, we were down at the Shoe for three years, which wasn’t bad, but it didn’t feel like a home,” he says. “They built this. We opened a week early for our season ticket holders to come in and walk around, learn where their seats were and for our staff to learn what their jobs were.
“I was walking around my section, which was the northeast section. There was a gentleman sitting there with almost tears in his eyes. I walked down to say hello. He just looked at me and said, ‘This is home.’ You can’t ask for anything more than that.”
Displaying his devotion, Stockwell says he’s worn out a pair of tennis shoes a year, trekking the stadium during matches and concerts, clocking about 10 miles a night. Although his role has changed over the years, he still enjoys his interaction with supporters at the gate.
“I just love getting to go up and talk to all the fans, make sure I get them in, get them out.”
Stockwell says he didn’t anticipate working for the club for all 20 seasons, but says he’s witnessed the development of Crew SC and it’s increasing relevance to the city of Columbus.
“I think it’s starting to mean more,” he says. “The fact that we now have a stadium naming rights sponsor, we’re getting recognition from outside the U.S. which is great, absolutely phenomenal for Columbus.
“I just love this stadium.”