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President of Business Operations Andy Loughnane Discusses Late-October Scenario

As the calendar turns to August, our business begins to apply simultaneous focus on 2 seasons: the current season and the next season. Our season ticket membership extension campaign for the 2018 season will officially launch on Thursday, August 10, and as a result membership extensions (and new sales) for the 2018 season will become a focus of our efforts, our resources, and our club messaging. 

Along a parallel path we will continue to focus efforts, resources, and club messaging around a strong finish to the 2017 season. An important component of our ongoing 2017 efforts will be a drive towards building awareness and attendance for potential 2017 playoff dates/scenarios. We recognize that many of you, like us, have the expectation to qualify for the playoffs and as such our business must prepare accordingly for all playoff scenarios and outcomes - much like we did in 2015 during our deep run which included hosting MLS Cup.

So as we begin to heighten awareness for 2017 playoffs, I want to spend a few moments previewing a potential scenario that, if applicable, will require the State of Ohio, Standard Parking (SP+), Crew SC supporters, and Crew SC to implement a temporary parking plan if an Eastern Conference Knockout Round match were to be staged at MAPFRE Stadium in late October 2017.

So … yes: this is another blog about parking.

Specifically — this blog is meant to shed light on a parking plan that will exclusively apply to a potential Eastern Conference Knockout Round playoff match hosted at MAPFRE Stadium. If applicable, this plan will service the impact of hosting a home Conference Knockout Round match on dates that are *tentatively* scheduled as either Wednesday October 25 or Thursday October 26. Hosting a home Conference Knockout Round match on (the tentatively reserved dates of) 10/25 or 10/26 would become a reality if we completed the regular season as either the 3rd or 4th seed in the Eastern Conference. Any other placement in the Eastern Conference standings would NOT trigger the hosting of a home Conference Knockout Round match.   

To provide some context, our lease with the State of Ohio contemplates priority scheduling and priority parking access for Crew SC matches during most parts of the calendar year. However, there are times during the calendar year where Crew SC is prohibited from hosting matches (or for that matter concerts, etc.) at MAPFRE Stadium. During the 35 week MLS regular season, there are approximately 6 weeks (translation: 6 weekends) that are surrendered to the State of Ohio. For example – our lease with the State of Ohio does not permit Crew SC to host matches/events during the annual Ohio State Fair hosted on the grounds of the Ohio Expo Center in late July/early August. Given the parking demands of the Ohio State Fair and the demands of Crew SC match parking —  the lease contemplated the difficulty of managing overlapping events and deemed that the parking supply and parking demand would best be served by implementing an event-hosting blackout at MAPFRE Stadium during the Ohio State Fair (and yes – I am aware that, on occasion, the State Fair has hosted a concert at MAPFRE Stadium as a kickoff or conclusion to the State Fair and we would love to see that event return to MAPFRE Stadium).

Another event-hosting blackout window which the lease contemplates is the annual occurrence of Quarter Horse Congress at the Ohio Expo Center. Quarter Horse Congress typically operates for approximately 25 days during the month of October, with a varying start date/end date based on the way the calendar falls. For those unfamiliar with the event, Quarter Horse Congress utilizes virtually all available Ohio Expo Center parking capacity which exists south of 17th Street as well as all available Ohio Expo Center parking capacity that exists north of 17th Street – extending as far as Black & Gold Boulevard. Furthermore, the nature of their parking demands north of 17th Street aren’t necessarily limited to daily-parking vehicles … but rather long-term parking needs to serve oversized vehicles such as trucks, horse trailers, and even RV’s that stay in a permanent position for several weeks. 

In 2017, the Quarter Horse Congress will commence at the Ohio Expo Center on October 3 and finish on October 29. Therefore, if the hosting of a Conference Knockout Round match were to become a reality based on Crew SC’s 2017 Eastern Conference seeding, a conflict will arise: Crew SC playoff match would overlap with Quarter Horse Congress.

It’s important to point out that the State of Ohio, Quarter Horse Congress, and SP+ have been cooperative and supportive of developing alternative parking solutions to accommodate the hosting of a Knockout Round match at MAPFRE Stadium so that Crew SC can attempt to preserve home field advantage for an incredibly important playoff match. Unfortunately, it is not possible to delay the hosting of a Knockout Round playoff match beyond October 29, and it simply is not possible to require Quarter Horse Congress to a) change their dates and/or b) vacate their legal rights to have exclusive use of parking lots customarily used for Crew SC matches.

Before I advance I want to again note that we do NOT foresee any other home playoff match conflicts with Quarter Horse Congress for any potential home playoff matches beyond a Conference Knockout Round on either 10/25 or 10/26. Major League Soccer will release all potential playoff dates, but we presently maintain a high degree of confidence that the potential hosting of Leg 1 of the 2017 Eastern Conference Semifinals (and anything beyond) would not create any conflicts with Quarter Horse Congress. 

Although this overlapping scenario with Quarter Horse Congress is inconvenient for a variety of reasons, it is our job to prepare for this scenario and develop an alternative parking strategy. With the assistance of the State of Ohio, Quarter Horse Congress, and SP+ we have begun to shape the parking plan to accommodate this (admittedly undesirable, yet uncontrollable) Knockout Round scenario. Here are a few updates that will exclusively pertain to a playoff match hosted on either 10/25 or 10/26:

  • Crew SC will maintain operation of B-Lot, VIP Lot, and H-Lot
  • Vehicles accustomed to parking in General Parking lots will be re-routed to the adjacent lots on the grounds of the Ohio History Connection (formerly known as Ohio Historical Society)
  • Additional public transportation and shuttling needs are being contemplated, and future announcements will be forthcoming once (and if) available

We view this challenge as surmountable, and overcoming the challenge begins with communication. The impact of this scenario is not lost on any of us and we will continue to plan & communicate plans when specific information becomes available (and as scenarios begin to crystalize).

We know this scenario will require each of us to manage vehicle and pedestrian traffic flow in a very different form, but we want to prepare so we can host a successful playoff match with strong attendance and the least amount of unexpected issues. In the interim, we recognize that we have work ahead of us to qualify for the playoffs and we look forward to the final 10 matches of the regular season.