Add Wednesday, January 9, 2019 to the list of notable days in the history of the Columbus Crew SC organization.
Inside a crowded room of supporters, business partners, Club and MLS officials, and city and state officials, the Black & Gold officially welcomed to Head Coach Caleb Porter, President Tim Bezbatchenko, and the new Investor-Operator group consisting of The Haslam Family and The Edwards Family.
Emceed by former MLS player and current ESPN analyst Taylor Twellman, MLS Commissioner Don Garber opened the remarks before handing the podium spot to Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther.
“What a great day in the city of Columbus,” Ginther said. “We are thrilled to be here to celebrate on this day what we have always known to be true – that the Crew belongs to the people of Columbus.”
Alex Fischer, President and CEO of the Columbus Partnership, followed Ginther with remarks on six aspects of how this moment came to be, notably pointing out the importance of community.
“It takes a great community,” Fischer said. “We have that, and we are grateful. It takes great owners. I put them after community only because if we have learned anything, we have learned that we need ownership that is of the community, for the community and believes that Major League Soccer and professional support are a part of the community. That is exactly what we have.”
Investor-Operator Dee Haslam followed Fischer, touching on the significance of the ‘Columbus Way’ and the opportunity to be involved with the community, the Club, and the supporters.
“We understand what a great community Columbus is,” Haslam said. “We do understand what a great sports franchise the Columbus Crew is. We are honored to be able to be a part of the ownership group and so very honored to be a part of Major League Soccer.”
A common thread throughout the event – in addition to the organization itself – revolved around the idea of “family”, with fellow Investor-Operator Dr. Pete Edwards officially welcoming the Haslam Family to central Ohio and emphasizing the fabric of Columbus’ community.
“The fabric of the community involves families, and my family has been blessed to grow up with this team,” said Edwards. “I have been involved with the team since the first day. My children have been around the players and around the game for 25 years. That leads to the tradition of the families enjoying their time with the team.
“That family connection is really, really important, and the traditions that have been born through 25 years of soccer are going to continue. We are going to support the family atmosphere of the team. We are excited to be able to do that.”
Crew SC President and Columbus native Tim Bezbatchenko took to the podium, thanking the supporters and ownership for the opportunity before reflecting on the priorities – both near and long-term – of the new-look Columbus Crew.
“It is a tremendous honor and responsibility working for a club like the Columbus Crew with its rich history and tradition,” Bezbatchenko said. “Personally it is an incredible opportunity to come back to my home city and a club I loved and followed for 23 years and to work with this ownership group, to shepherd this club into a new era. What will the team look like? What will the club identity be? It is still fresh, and I do not know exactly for today, but I will tell you this: the first thing is we are going to do is contend and win because that is what we are here to do and that is why we are here.”
Closing out the event was Head Coach Caleb Porter, who spoke about his connection to the Midwest and, in particular, Ohio, before covering the aspects he wants to bring to the Club as part of his vision, starting with energy, innovation, continued success, and lastly, with trophies.
“I am coming here to try and bring another trophy plain and simple,” Porter said. “That is always a tricky thing to say. Some coaches don’t talk about those things. Every single place that I have gone, it is the first thing I talk about. You have to create that vision. You have to raise the bar to that level, and to win a trophy, you have to talk about it, you have to think about it and you have to say it. Then you go about the steps along that process to actually accomplish that. It has been 10 years since this club has won an MLS Cup trophy. If I came here for any other reason other than win an MLS Cup trophy, you would have the wrong guy.”
Porter and company will dive right into work with the 2019 MLS SuperDraft kicking off on Friday, Jan. 11 in Chicago, Ill.