“The main thing is to come and try it. Just come and see.”
This is what season ticket members Carol and Warren Collins have told their friends and family about attending Columbus Crew SC matches over the past 25 years, as the Black & Gold celebrate the quarter-century milestone on Saturday, June 15 after officially entering Major League Soccer on the same date in 1994.
As young parents, the couple had not experienced soccer until their two sons started playing recreationally in kindergarten. From there, their family became more and more involved with the beautiful game.
“All of a sudden one of them is playing,” Warren said, “and then the second one is playing. Then I am coaching. They started playing travel, high school, and college.”
When Carol and Warren attended the inaugural Crew SC match at Ohio State in 1994, to which Carol still has her ticket, the excitement around the match was almost a spectacle in its own right, and while they were happy to be part of this match, they also described it as somewhat of a letdown. “It was out of place because it was a football stadium,” Warren explained, “not a soccer-specific stadium.”
For them, the truly special moment was worth the wait - three years to be specific - when the team moved into then-Crew Stadium, the nation's original soccer-specific stadium for MLS' original club. “It was really exciting,” Carol said. “It was like, I can’t believe it. It was so close.”
The couple originally placed their seats in the upper deck but shortly moved their seats closer to the field. Eventually, they decided on Section 124, Row 5, where they have resided ever since. They explained that these seats are close to the field but still allow them to watch the play develop. They also proudly exclaimed, “Westside is the best side because of the sun.”
As Season Ticket Members, Carol and Warren have established long-lasting relationships with the people around them. Originally, a couple from Yugoslavia sat in the row behind them and they began to build a friendship. “They would come every game,” Warren said. “We talked to them every game and got really close to them.”
When the two seats next to Carol and Warren became available, the couple asked if they could move down to those. Even after the couple was unable to attend matches, they still stayed in contact with Carol and Warren over the years.
Along with attending home games over the years, Carol and Warren have found themselves at some of the Black & Gold’s away matches including games in New England and Orlando.
Beyond just going to the Club's games, Crew SC has provided Carol and Warren with other opportunities to build community and watch soccer. The couple recalls watching the United States Men's National Team's matches versus Mexico at the stadium.
One of the biggest highlights for Warren was attending the United States Men’s National Team watch party at the stadium during the 2002 World Cup at two in the morning.
“There were about 17,000 people out on the plaza,” he said. “It was a year when the U.S. made it to the quarterfinals. I came in about midnight and cars were lined up on [Interstate] 71 going off on 17th. And every car that came off was pulling into the stadium. It was lined up out in the parking lot two hours before kickoff. It was almost as good as being there.”
Of all of the memories that Carol and Warren have had with Crew SC and at MAPFRE Stadium, one of the most important was watching their son coach Ohio High School Athletic Association State Championship from its sidelines.
“We were upstairs in the box,” Carol said. “Our son had gone across the field with his daughter and then they were walking across and just the look on his face, and he was just taking it all in. It was awesome.”
It was neat that we have this stadium here to play a state championship in,” Warren added. “It is like playing in OSU for football. Being here and having a soccer-specific stadium has always been amazing.”
Both Carol and Warren have felt that their experience as season ticket members has been very special. “If we had to do without anything,” Warren said, “we wouldn’t eat to get season tickets.”