Frenzied fans flock ‘Crew’ new home



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Columbus Crew new stadium inauguration Image: Columbus Crew

All roads led to Arena District (Columbus, US) on July 3rd as crowds swelled on the roads to reach the Major League Soccer (MLS) team Columbus Crew’s brand new home – Lower.com Field – where a colorful inaugural ceremony of the ‘Crew’s’ new digs was held. The opening ceremony was marked by the inaugural match between the Columbus Crew SC and its peer team New England Revolution.

With 20,371 seats at the new $313.9 million stadium, a near-capacity crowd cheered and heckled, and the party around the Arena District roared on too. Ultimately, the game ended in a 2-2 draw.

Columbus Crew Head Coach Caleb Porter remarked after the game, “It’s really exciting to know that this is going to be our home every single game that we play (in Columbus). To know that atmosphere is going to be exactly like we all envisioned it would be, dreamt it would be – it exceeded all expectations. We knew it would be a big day, we knew it would be loud but it was absolutely critical, the fans, and that helped us come back from two goals.”
 

Pre-match moments

‘The Columbus Dispatch’ stated that leading the crowd was American soccer player Frankie Hejduk who at one point of time played for the ‘Crew’ and his mind got overflowed with nostalgic moments of his time as an MLS Cup champion with the Columbus Crew.

Hejduk celebrated 25 years of the Columbus Crew’s presence in the City with all those who advanced down High Street with him. There were chants, flags and a band accompanying Hejduk on the path to his former team’s new expansive and luxurious palace-like home.

Frankie Hejduk is a Columbus Crew SC legend, there’s no disputing that. He played for the ‘Black & Gold’ from 2003 to 2010 and captained the club to its first and only MLS Cup Championship in 2008. He hanged up his boots in 2012.

The American professional soccer club Columbus Crew SC based in Columbus, Ohio (US) competes in the top division Major League Soccer (MLS) as a member of the league’s Eastern Conference. In December 2020, the Crew lifted the MLS Championship Cup 2020.

The New England Revolution is an American professional soccer club based in the Greater Boston area (US) that competes in Major League Soccer (MLS) as a member of the Eastern Conference of the league. It is one of the 10 charter clubs of MLS, having competed in the league since its inaugural season.

The 20,011-capacity Lower.com Field is a soccer-specific stadium in Columbus, Ohio, United States. It serves primarily as the home stadium of the Columbus Crew of Major League Soccer, replacing the club’s previous home, the Historic Crew Stadium.

Major League Soccer (MLS) is a men’s professional soccer league sanctioned by the United States Soccer Federation, which represents the sport’s highest level in the United States and Canada. The league comprises 27 teams – 24 in the US and 3 in Canada – and plans to expand to 30 teams by the 2023 season.

‘The Columbus Dispatch’ further stated that the ‘March to the Match’ South on High Street to Nationwide Boulevard led by Hejduk – not to mention former ‘Crew’ goalkeeper Zack Steffen, was a fun-filled moment and full of festivities and the celebration of soccer in Central Ohio was felt all across Columbus and beyond.

A nostalgic Hejduk remarked, “We’ve … got a lot of history walking down this street right now. That’s what’s pretty cool man. This is all we ever wanted, man: To be Downtown and see the town in ‘Black & Gold’ and everyone supporting it, supporting soccer. This is unbelievable. … I couldn’t have pictured this moment 26 years ago.”

Sally Slocum, 60, of Worthington (Ohio) stated that the whole fun ‘n’ frolic among the fans was not just about supporting a team but also a City. The sexagenarian gazed at the thousands that had gathered to celebrate a growing game in the United States.

Slocum, a season ticket holder, added, “It’s really not just fandom, its City support. I’ve been in Columbus for nearly 60 years, and there have been times where I’ve been able to sit down on High Street and nobody would drive by. To see this level of support, not only from the loyal fans, season ticket holders, or the casual fan … I love sports, but it goes beyond sports. It’s just an investment in the City.”

As hundreds poured out of the High Street and Short North-area bars along the march’s path to the stadium, it was apparent that the build-up to July 3rd festivities was a long-awaited moment.
 

Passionate ‘Crew’ fans

For Nick Auddino, 36, of Westerville (Ohio), the club’s move to the new stadium is something he will always cherish. He strolled alongside the walls of Lower.com Field with his two children: Six-year-old Laina and 12-year-old Jordan.

Since becoming a fan, the only time he had missed a match was for the birth of his son.

Exulted Auddino, “Dude, this is amazing. It’s just amazing, man. We’ve got a new stadium. My kids are excited. … They have not seen the stadium yet.”

He said that he could never imagine in his wild dreams that the ‘Crew’ would finally play at a spiffy home in Ohio and recalled that in 2017, when the team nearly left and before the ‘Save the Crew’ movement rescued the club from plans for relocation to Austin, Texas (US). It was a back from the brink moment for the ‘Crew’ then.

Heaving a sigh of relief, Audino stated, “Through ‘Save the Crew’, through everything. I’m so happy the team is still here.”

Said 55-year-old Curt Bixel of Upper Arlington (Ohio) as he watched with a grin, “I played soccer growing up … Seeing this? It’s amazing.”

He is glad the club remained in the City he’s lived in for most of his life and that fans have taken hold of his favorite game so firmly.

The 20,000 ardent fans inside Lower.com Field on the evening of July 3rd bore testimony to the fact that how much they loved the game of soccer and more than that how much more they loved the ‘Crew’.

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