Investor-Operator – Dr. Pete Edwards
Thank you, everyone. [singing] Columbus! And everybody, that’s why we’re here. It’s about Columbus. It’s about pride in our community. It’s about how thankful I am to be a part of this community and a part of this team. I want to thank my family, especially my wife Chris, for all the support over the last few years. I want to thank ‘Save The Crew’. We gathered on the courthouse steps two years ago and you’ve worked passionately and diligently over the last two years to support the Club – not without you. I want to thank Alex Fischer and Steve Lyons. They worked harder and smarter and longer hours than anyone else to support this project – not without you Alex and Steve. I want to thank Commissioner Garber because his patience and his judgment and his love of the game allowed a conflict to turn into a celebration – not without you Don. I to want to thank the city, council and state officials that have trust and commitment to community in their hearts and without them, without that, our project – not without you all. I want to thank The Haslam Family who understand that shared experience and passion in sport is part of the clue that holds our community together and what we accomplished together brings us all closer for their support, thank you for stepping up in a big way; not without you – The Haslam Family. And I want to thank all of you. Because you’re here and because you care for Columbus and for your team, we are able to do something really special. So today I am thankful, but I am also proud. I am proud to be from Columbus because in Columbus, we fight for what we believe in and we fight for what is ours. And in Columbus, we win those fights. In Columbus we cherish our history, but we respect our roots. But in Columbus we are more excited for our future and in Columbus we dream big and only in Columbus do we accomplish even bigger. So, Columbus, be proud of yourself. Be proud of what we’ve accomplished and be proud of your team. Thank you very much. Go Columbus and go Columbus Crew!
Investor-Operator – Dee Haslam
Okay, I too have to thank Dr. Pete [Edwards]. Thank you. I, too, want to thank the Edwards family. This was just a dream, and meeting Dr. Pete and hearing the story of the Columbus Crew inspired us to want to get involved too. We know how important the sport is to this community and we are so grateful to all of the people here today that have been thanked. To Alex Fischer and to the entire community and most importantly, to all of you – the supporters. Thank you so much for your efforts. We’re here to celebrate. It has been a long hard road to get here today but this is really about our future, and so we have worked really hard on thinking about this stadium, to build a unique, iconic, dynamic, vibrant stadium that reflects what Columbus is all about and also reflects our fans. So, we spent a lot of time thinking about what it looks like and I think it’s pretty ominous – and hopefully the coach thinks so too and we play that way – and also, we want to take care of our great fans. And so, we thought about how we cover the fans. Not only to protect them from the elements because we do that all the time but also to create a very loud stadium because we know it is an advantage. So, we’re going to continue working really hard to make sure that every element of the stadium is perfect for you. So, we will keep doing that. There is a great brew hall, there are great areas for gathering, there is a great a way to march to the stadium. So, we put a lot of thought into that because we know it’s important to you. So, thank you for your input on that. We also want you to know that a soccer team in MLS is more than just what we do on the pitch. We want to make sure that we give back to this community every day and so you’ll see that we will put in a soccer academy, youth soccer programs and mini-pitches throughout the community to grow the sport and make sure that it is part of the very fiber of this community. And the stadium will not only be a place where we play, but hopefully you gather in that 40,000 square foot plaza and have concerts, events and all kinds of festivals that show and highlight this great city. So, it’s now my great pleasure to kind of unveil the new Crew stadium. So, thank you very much.
Major League Soccer Commissioner – Don Garber
So, as I’ve been listening to the comments, I said to my communications guy that I would not speak to the remarks and, I’d speak to the city and to its leaders. Speak to the Haslam and Edwards families and speak to the fans. You know, building a sports league – particularly a new league in a competitive environment, has all sorts of ups and downs, trials and tribulations and things that you need to face every day to try and ensure that we can capture the opportunity of what soccer in America can be and in many ways that’s what happened in our experience here in Columbus. For those of you, who don’t know, I was hired by Lamar Hunt. I worked for him in a previous life and he was a man that was very close to me and my family. The first game I ever attended as MLS Commissioner was at Crew Stadium and I’ve attended more National Team games in Crew Stadium than I think anybody in this country – certainly [anyone] that’s wearing a suit. So, when things got complicated, we all needed to take a step back and try to understand what could we do to ensure that we could come up with a solution that would be good for the fans in Columbus, that would be good for the city, that would be good for our League and very importantly, something that would be good for soccer in America – and I believe that we have achieved that. I started in this job 20 years ago and I was asked recently what is the thing I am proudest of? And I think it is the most difficult thing professionally – not personally – that I ever had to manage through, and that was the complicated effort to try and find a way that this team would be where we are today. There are a couple people I want to thank, and it starts with Alex Fischer. I don’t think there was a person that I didn’t get along with more in my life than Alex and I don’t think there is a person – public official – that I’ve ever dealt with anywhere in the country who I have more respect for than you, Alex. You did a great job and you should really get a lot of credit for where we are today. Mayor Ginther, our meetings were not fun as he alluded to, but he was strong and he was focused and he was very convicted to the idea that if we can get the sun, the moon and the stars aligned that we would be where we are today and in order to get there we needed to find an owner. We found one in The Haslam Family that I am so proud and so honored as should all of you, in that they are going to be leading this along with the Edwards Family. I have so much respect for all of you: For Dee [Haslam], for your children, for JW [Johnson]. This will be a great ownership group, combined with what Dr. Edwards will do. This is a team that has no ability to stop and to be one of the top teams in the League and ultimately one of the top leagues in the world, and in order to get there, we needed a soccer stadium – as you all know, that would be one of the top stadiums in our country and potentially one of the top stadiums in the world. And it wasn’t just enough to do another MLS stadium. The family sat down and said we want to have a stadium that will be a beacon to show what this City of Columbus can be, what it will be and how the Columbus Crew can lead this sport in our country. Today’s groundbreaking is one of the great days in the history of our League. All the public officials have been thanked. I want to thank them again, and again I want to thank all of you. At some point we’ll all be able to have a beer over this and remember some of the great things that have happened. Thank you.
Investor-Operator – JW Johnson
How we doing? [Applause] That’s what I’m talking about! Thank you, Kyle [Martino]. Thank you, Crew fans, supporters for turning out on this amazing day. For the club, the city, MLS and of course, you fans, you truly are massive. And I know Caleb [Porter], Bex [Tim Bezbatchenko], this family will give you something to cheer about in this new stadium for many years to come, so thank you. There were times in the future of this historic organization was extremely uncertain and this community rallied together. It was the spirit of this community, its love for the sport and what the team means to the city, that stood out most to myself and to many to keep this team rightfully where it belongs, right here in this great state of Ohio and the City of Columbus. So great job! I want to introduce the next individual who helped work with our families, the Edwards family to create a solution that would not only ensure this club remains here to stay but begins a new chapter with a new vision and of course an outstanding new stadium. We’re honored to undertake this project to build a stadium that will be the best in North America and certainly in this league. Please welcome the man who is going to lead the MLS, and we all make mistakes, okay? We all make mistakes but please show respect, MLS commissioner Don Garber.
Ohio Lieutenant Governor – Jon Husted
I got to step my game up and do more. Well look, that was wonderful, that was awesome, and you are the reason that we’re here today, there is no doubt about that. Elected officials are pretty good at listening to mobs of people who want you to fix something, right? And that’s exactly what happened. You know, the fans do deserve the credit for this. There are a lot of voices and victory, but you really do and, you know, it’s great that MLS listened to what Columbus wanted. Because there is a lot of fun stuff that is going to happen here, it’ll be a lot of fun when Cincinnati comes here, but it’s going to be a lot of fun when Austin comes here. Yeah! Who? Alright, there we go! (answering crowd chants) Like I said, it’s going to be a lot of fun. So it is my pleasure on behalf of Governor DeWine, to say that we’re proud, and you see Senate President Larry Obhof is here to be a part of making this happen and we’re all in, we’re going to get there, we’re going to do our part to get this done. It’s a team sport, team effort, but in every athletic competition there comes a time in a big game where you don’t know whether you’re going to win or not. And it takes the character of people who say I am not going to lose this game, I am not going to let this happen - that we are going to achieve victory, and I know that the mayor and the City of Columbus were like that, I know that Alex Fischer, I saw him, Alex Fischer from the Columbus Partnership wasn’t going to let this fail. And then you have the all-stars that stepped up, like Pete Edwards and The Edwards Family. All-stars like The Haslam Family, Jimmy and Dee. And I tell you what, even my guy Mike DeWine when he was Attorney General, he said “We are not going to let them leave, we are going to respond to what the fans say” and as governor he’s made that commitment to keep that promise. And it’s more than just a soccer team to Columbus and Central Ohio. This city is on the rise, it’s an emerging international city, and it had to have the most popular sport in the world alive and well here in Columbus, and that’s exactly what we have today. And I said there is a lot of good things going on here, got a great team, got a great facility, we’re going to have fun with Cincinnati and that other team, and all other teams in between. Just think how much fun it’s going to be when one day we celebrate another championship right here in Columbus, Ohio. God bless you, thank you very much!
Franklin County Commissioner – Marilyn Brown
Well this is a great testament to what we can do as a community coming together like this to celebrate all of us – in Franklin County, in Columbus – everybody coming together for a purpose larger than ourselves. That’s what we do in Franklin County, that’s what we do in Columbus, that’s what you’ve done. All of you. I saw the “home” banner that you’ve got, yeah this is home! I want to shout out to my colleagues, Commissioner Boise and Commissioner O’Grady, who are here in the audience, yeah, they deserve applause. Also, to our County Administrator Ken Wilson, who spent tireless hours with this Crew team and with Alex Fischer and so many of the people who put this deal together. It would not have happened without the Save The Crew folks, without The Haslam Family, without the Edwards Family. But without your pushing this, it would not have happened. I was talking to some young people the other day and talked about the value of grassroot support and grassroot organizing, and mentioned this effort as the key effort in the community that mobilized in a productive way to really do the hard work that needed to happen to mobilize us and to mobilize all of the leadership around this issue of Save The Crew, save our team, save what makes a community great. This is what makes the community great: it’s bigger than soccer but it’s soccer plus. It’s all of us coming together to support what makes community so good in Central Ohio. We are the Crew Plus, so thank you all. This is a great, great afternoon. We’re going to do the groundbreaking for something very special in this community and we all know that Columbus knows how to do things great and we all know that when it comes to our sports, we know how to do the great things even better. This is what Columbus does, we come together for the greater good. So, thank you all, and thank you to my colleagues here on the desk. It’s a team effort because it’s a team sport.
Columbus City Council President – Shannon Hardin
Good afternoon, Columbus. I want to thank Kyle [Martino] for being an amazing soccer player, being an amazing hometown hero and certainly for welcoming all of us today. To Mayor Ginther, thank you so much for your leadership, to our Lieutenant Governor, to the commissioners that are here, represented by Marilyn Brown, president of the commission for our city’s attorney Zach Klein, to our friend and fearless leader Megan Kilgore, Auditor to the City of Columbus, to our state house colleagues who are here and represented, and to the Haslam and Edwards family, and thank you to our private sector in our city. On behalf of my colleagues on Columbus City Council, and I see Councilor Mitch Brown and Emmanuel Remy with us. I’m proud to be here to break ground on the new Crew stadium in a billion-dollar district in the City of Columbus. We’re here for one reason, plain and simple, Columbus’ can-do attitude. Almost exactly two years ago, someone tried to take our club away from Columbus. He tried to move the Crew from the only city its club has ever known. Five days later, over two thousand Crew fans gathered at city hall, showing the world that the efforts to save the Crew had just begun. After a year of hard work driven by the spirit of Columbus, and driven by that can-do attitude, the Haslam and Edwards families announced their intentions to purchase the crew, keeping the crew right here in Columbus and breaking ground on a new downtown stadium as we revamp MAPFRE Stadium into a sports park for benefits of all our residents. Today isn’t just about a stadium like the Mayor said, it’s about a broader vision for our city. It’s about a new billion-dollar district, it’s about transforming empty land downtown into a hub for jobs, for housing and for new homes for the best soccer club in America. It’s about new infrastructure to connect communities, like the long plan pedestrian bridge across the Olentangy [River] to foster a more walkable community for all of us. It’s about historic commitment to minority contracting in the construction process. And It’s about preventing MAPFRE Stadium from being abandoned, not leaving it to rust and instead turning that liability into an asset for families of our great city, because in Columbus we have a saying, that if it’s not for all then it’s not for us. Now while we break ground today, it’s imperative that we look towards the future, to think about the young families that will walk down these streets, past thousands of new jobs, past hundred of new housing units to celebrate our Crew Soccer club, and to celebrate our city’s can-do attitude. and one last thing: Glory to Columbus.
City of Columbus Mayor – Andrew J. Ginther
What a great day in the City of Columbus. Alex [Fischer], I was thinking on the way over here about a very different type of day in New York City, in a November not too long ago: Rainy, dreary, not very much hope for the future, and here we are today. But we wouldn’t be here without our great Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted, the Edwards and Haslam families, Commissioner [Marilyn] Brown and the Franklin County commissioners, our Council President and members of City Council, Auditor Kilgore, City Attorney Klein – Like everything in Columbus, we can achieve great things when we all work together. What a great day here in the future side of the new Columbus Crew Stadium. I’m grateful to the Haslam and Edwards families and to all that have help make today possible. I’ve always said from the beginning that the City’s commitment to the Crew goes beyond soccer. Though we cannot underestimate that keeping this team here, what it does for this community. As Dee Haslam says, there are just so many things about sports that are vibrant to a community. We have invested fifty million dollars for infrastructure for this stadium and for turning MAPFRE Stadium into a training facility and creating a community sports park for the entire community. The Haslam and Edwards families are investing 300 million dollars to make sure that they build a world-class stadium for a world-class city and for world-class fans. The city’s fifty million dollar investment towards the Crew, along with additional funds for infrastructure, for this incredible new job center here in the Arena District. I didn’t major in math, but the last time I checked, 113 million dollars in infrastructure for a new job center leveraging 1.04 billion dollars in private investment is a pretty good return for the taxpayers of central Ohio. Creating 3,200 new jobs, 6.5 million dollars in annual city payroll income tax increases, in addition to being the highest level of minority and female participation on any public-private partnership in our community’s history. Of course, this stadium is just the first step, the other big part of keeping the Crew in Columbus is converting MAPFRE, not just into a training facility for the team, but into a community sports park that brings multi-generational activities and programs to benefit the entire community. 200,000 of our neighbors live within two miles of MAPFRE Stadium, and in Columbus we don’t back down from our neighborhoods, we double-down and invest in their future and that’s exactly what MAPFRE is going to be. I’m grateful for everyone for their hard work and diligence and for never, never, ever giving up on Columbus. And I look forward to a great 2020 season in Columbus and to the very first soccer season played right here. Congratulations.