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By Tim Newcomb
The summer 2021 opening of soccer-specific Lower.com Field in Columbus, Ohio, was more than a $313 million venue. It marked the centerpiece of the Astor Park development.
The 33-acre Astor Park converts underused property near the downtown center and makes Lower.com Field the cornerstone of a live-work-play development expected to take shape over the next few years. The connectivity to Ohio State University and multiple neighborhoods helped define the best location for the new venue.
“We studied the community and gained insight from leaders on what would be most beneficial to Columbus,” said Dee Haslam, CEO of Haslam Sports Group, which owns the MLS’ Columbus Crew as well as the NFL’s Cleveland Browns. “Given our mission to provide our fans with an exceptional experience year-round and on match days, creating a space that our supporters would love was always a top priority.”
The Crew have a storied history in the league. The team opened what is now known as Historic Crew Stadium in 1999, the country’s first soccer-specific venue for a professional team. But the team needed saving, and Haslam Sports Group, led by Haslam and husband Jimmy, purchased it Jan. 1, 2019, and this year opened the team’s second stadium. That history runs deep and so does fan passion, to the point that an attempt to change the Columbus Crew name to Columbus FC was reversed in a week with an apology from Haslam.
That same passion helped define the 20,000-seat venue with a roof canopy covering every seat in the venue, a beer garden behind the 3,364-seat Nordecke supporters section and a pub that faces both toward a stadium concourse and out to the new neighborhood. The new venue puts a focus on premium spaces and improving the experience from the old venue.
Haslam said she appreciates the attention to detail through every section.
“We wanted Lower.com Field to be used 365 days a year for all kinds of events,” she said, noting wide — and covered — concourses, an event plaza, the pub and premium spaces offering “comfortable yet modern, fresh yet warm” environments.
“I am truly excited to see how the community uses and embraces the stadium,” Haslam said.