Add the members of the Clintonville Area Commission to those working hard to hang onto a soccer club once known as "America's Hardest Working Team."
At the urging of District 9 resident Kari Engen, CAC members at their Nov. 2 session approved a resolution that urges "the investor-operator and chairman of the Columbus Crew Soccer Club to keep the Crew SC here in Columbus and commit to building the downtown, state-of-the-art, soccer-specific stadium and maintain and foster Columbus, Ohio's reputation as the heart of soccer in the state of Ohio and the USA."
Engen said she signed up for season tickets two years before the Major League Soccer franchise was awarded to Columbus in 1996. She said the news that Anthony Precourt, the San Francisco-based owner of the Crew, was considering relocating the team to Austin, Texas, unless a stadium is built near downtown was a "kick in the gut."
"This just came out of the blue and pretty much stunned everyone," Engen said.
She noted Clintonville is home to many people who hold season tickets to Crew home games.
Like the grassroots effort that brought the team to Columbus, Engen said a Save the Crew movement has been organized to "keep our home team home."
"It's my pleasure to support this," District 1 representative David Vottero said.
He praised Engen's presentation as "very straightforward and thorough."
District 9 representative B.J. White also said she thought Engen had done a good job, but then admitted her bias: the two have been married for nearly three decades.
Prior to taking the vote, District 5 representative Matthew Cull wanted Engen to be clear that the reference in the resolution to the new stadium was not advocating for the spending of any public dollars. Her intent, she replied, is that it would be privately funded.
District 2 representative Khara Nemitz asked Engen what would happen to existing Mapfre Stadium.
Engen responded that the Crew rent the land and facility from the fairgrounds, with the lease running through 2023. The team could be required to raze the stadium or even find another tenant, she added.
Bill Crawford, a Clintonville resident for more than three years, said he moved to Ohio from the Baltimore area, and well remembers the "heartbreak" of seeing the Colts move from there to Indianapolis in 1984.
While not a soccer fan, Crawford told commission members that Columbus needs to be protective of its national reputation, and having a Major League Soccer franchise is part of that.
"We can't afford to lose assets like major league sports," he said. "It's good for Columbus' image."
The resolution, which calls the Crew a "vital economic driver to the city of Columbus and surrounding Columbus metropolitan area of between $20 million and $25 million," was approved 8-1.
Judy Minister of District 4 cast the lone "no" vote.