The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio, Michael Arace columnThe Columbus Dispatch, Ohio — Michael Arace The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio
Feb. 14--Crew owner Anthony Precourt did not attend the annual Crew Supporters Summit on Monday night. Presumably, he was venturing capital from his home base in San Francisco. Or, maybe, he was surfing real estate listings, continuing his four-plus-year effort to find a house in Columbus.
Dave Greeley, the president of Precourt Sports Ventures, did not attend the annual Crew Supporters Summit. He was last seen in Austin -- he spends a lot of time in Austin -- giving away scarves to the chamber of commerce. When is he going to address the Columbus chamber? Probably, when Precourt finds a house.
Andy Loughnane, Crew president of business operations, was the man given the job of speaking for the front office at the annual Crew Supporters Summit at Mapfre Stadium.
On one hand, Loughnane deserves credit for standing in front of a crowd representing a hard-core fan base that is agitated by the prospect of disenfranchisement. Tough crowd. Loughnane did the best he could for more than 90 minutes.
On the other hand, the irony of his presence and his message was not lost on anyone in the room. Loughnane, according to his LinkedIn profile, has had eight jobs since he got his college degree in 1996, which many supporters see as an indication that he is expert in staying one step ahead of any given posse. And here he was, representing a business operation that failed in its mission in Columbus -- and because of this, it has to move to Austin. That was his message.
It's not Precourt's fault or Greeley's fault or Loughnane's fault. It used to be a fault of the fan base, which is supposedly a mile wide and an inch deep. Now, it's the fault of the local business community.
"We have to find corporate support (that is) six or seven times its present value," Loughnane told the crowd.
"(At) the end of the day, on the corporate side, that is where we are encountering major resistance," he said. "Significant resistance. ... It's just this absence of effort across 22, 23 years of the club's existence. This has been consistent. I will tell you, that is easily the strongest concern. There is not enough contractually obligated income, or interest, or wherewithal, or whatever, to finance a stadium deal."
This is what Atlanta will hear in 2038. Mark it down.
Loughnane's message to supporters was just the flip side of what Greeley has been preaching in Austin. Up here, they talk to fans who sit in the corner of an old stadium, and down there, they're beseeching members of the business community, talking about a new stadium.
This is PSV's (and the league's) notion of "parallel paths." It is the cherry on top of a pile of manure.
Aside from the numbers -- and when Loughnane pulled $150 million out of the air and added it to the price of franchise, his already-bruised credibility reached the 13th round of the Thrilla in Manila -- there was nothing new.
I wasn't in the room, but more than one fan broke rules of the engagement and posted audio of the summit online. I am sure Precourt, Greeley, Loughnane and MLS commissioner Don Garber are as shocked -- shocked! -- at this 21st-century subterfuge as I am.
Anyway, Loughnane's job was to darken an outlook that has been bleak since Oct. 17, when Precourt famously announced that he was exploring a move to Austin. The Crew needs a new stadium. Their corporate in support Columbus is inadequate -- and it's only getting worse because of how the team has handled its "parallel paths." ("Support us, Columbus, because flights to Austin are expensive.") And so forth. We've already heard all of this.
Now, at least, somebody is saying something in public. For the first time in four months, a PSV official took a minute to address Massive concerns. That may not be a "parallel path," but it is something.
There are so many questions yet to be answered, here and in Austin. Talking out loud helps. It can frame a new conversation.
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