In the run-up to Saturday’s MLS Cup title match between Toronto and Seattle, Commissioner Don Garber has addressed questions about the Crew SC’s possible move to Austin, not closing the door on Columbus yet painting a bleak picture.
“What do you do in a market that simply is the lowest in every measure? In attendance, in revenue, in ticket pricing, in sponsorship, in local television ratings,” Garber told the “Men In Blazers” podcast. “They had 13,000 people at their playoff game in the first round. These are things that you begin to question the viability.”
He was asked if there was a chance that the team could stay in Columbus.
“There’s a possibility there,” Garber said. “The city has said, ‘We’re not going to talk to you if you continue to look at Austin,’ and that creates a little bit of an impasse here — not a little bit, but a lot of an impasse. (Owner) Anthony Precourt has always been on a parallel path and had hoped to have been able to achieve something.”
Garber told the Toronto Sun that MLS has been interested in Austin for quite some time.
“Austin is one of the few (large) cities in America that doesn’t have a professional sports team,” he said. “It’s a very young, culturally important city. It’s been on our radar for many years. That doesn’t mean Columbus is moving, but it’s a good prospect.”
Garber said he’s attempted to find common ground between Columbus officials and the Precourt group.
“I’ve tried to do what I can to help facilitate them coming together in a more productive way. Right now I’m not sure we’re at that point, but I’m confident if everyone gets in a room there might be an opportunity for the team to stay,” he told the Toronto Sun.
Yet the financial issues remain the same, he told “Men In Blazers.”
“We are and have been where we are in Columbus almost since the beginning,” Garber said. “The original owners had put almost $200 million into that club before the new owner took it over. (Precourt) has done a lot of really great things. He hired Gregg Berhalter (as coach) and has had success on the field, and still that team has struggled to be economically viable.”
No lawsuit: In related news, Bexar County officials determined there are no grounds to take legal action against MLS because Spurs Sports and Entertainment withdrew from the current expansion process. Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff has claimed that MLS encouraged San Antonio to make a bid while knowing the Crew was trying to move to Austin.
However, the Bexar County district attorney’s office and an outside law firm said the MLS expansion process was “unfair, unethical and duplicitous” to San Antonio.