Columbus Crew fans got to meet the team's new owners and coach for the first time Wednesday.
Representatives from team ownership and Major League Soccer, plus local government and business leaders, celebrated a new chapter for the Crew as they formally introduced incoming Coach Caleb Porter.
Team doctor Pete Edwards Jr. and Cleveland Browns co-owner Dee Haslam, who are purchasing the team from owner Anthony Precourt, emphasized the Crew's role in the community.
“For us to not have this team here would’ve left a hole in this city," Edwards said. "And my family said that that was not acceptable, and that we were going to do whatever we could to figure out a way to keep this team.”
The team's sale, which is still being finalized, was officially announced by MLS in late December. Precourt planned to move the Crew to Austin, but local officials and investors moved quickly to block the move and buy the team. The total price tag is currently pegged at $645 million, including $230 million for a new downtown stadium.
Haslam said the stadium project will bring new jobs and affordable housing.
“It's not just a stadium,” Haslam says. “It is truly a gathering place for many activities and very much part of a community where people will live work and play."
The stadium will be part of the Confluence Village development in the Arena District, and may see construction begin as early as this summer. The city of Columbus, Franklin County, and state of Ohio all pledged millions of dollars to help build the stadium.
Porter, who most recently coached the Portland Timbers, explained the team’s place in the local fabric helped convince him to take the job.
“That’s the type of club that I want to manage,” Porter said. “A club that’s relevant, a club that the people are proud of, a club where they’re going to fight—roll up their sleeves and save it.”
Porter led the Timbers to an MLS cup in 2015, ironically knocking off the Crew in the final. Porter left the team in 2017. He takes over from Gregg Berhalter, who left to coach the U.S. Men's National Team.
Tim Bezbatchenko, previously the vice president and general manager of Toronto FC, will come on as the Crew's new president.
The Crew’s MLS season kicks off at home March 2 against the New York Red Bulls.