“It was electric”: Crew open new stadium with wild comeback

After 22 years at a distance from downtown Columbus, the Crew christened its brand new downtown stadium, Lower.com Field, July 3 against the New England Revolution. 

Despite falling into an 0-2 hole early in the match, the Crew were able to ride the enthusiasm from the crowd to open the new stadium with a come-from-behind draw. Head coach Caleb Porter expressed excitement about the new stadium and Ohio State students shared what the opening meant to them as Crew fans.

“It’s really exciting to know this is going to be our home every single game we play,” Porter said. “To know that atmosphere is going to be everything we dreamt it would be, it exceeded all expectations.” 

The team was previously located at Historic Crew Stadium — formerly known as Mapfre Stadium — which was 3.1 miles from downtown Columbus and was the first stadium built exclusively for a Major League Soccer team. 

Although it was relatively distant from the epicenter of the city, it still holds a fond place in the hearts of fans and the history of the Crew. Columbus won its first two MLS Cup titles, multiple Supporter’s Shields and a U.S. Open Cup while occupants of Historic Crew Stadium. 

Construction of the new Lower.com Field started in October 2019 in the Astor Park neighborhood in downtown Columbus.

The $300 million stadium begins a new period for the Columbus Crew — who are coming off of a MLS Cup title in 2020. 

With the move to downtown Columbus, Ohio State students were still eager to experience the new stadium and watch the team with full capacity of 20,011 fans allowed amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Matthew Featsent, a third-year in chemical engineering, has attended Crew games with his family from a young age and is now part of the Nordecke fan section of the Crew.  

Featsent attended the inaugural match and said the atmosphere was loud and electric, but the fan-base was still the same as that of Historic Crew Stadium — completely invested. 

The Nordecke fan section is a high energy, passionate section that sits on the north side of the field. The Nordecke yells multiple chants throughout the 90-minute game which are led by capos — crowd leaders — that never let the energy die down.  

“The players feed off the energy and it’s almost a symbiosis, we sort of feed off them,” Featsent said. “You want them to hear you and you know they appreciate it.”   

Daniel Williams, a second-year medical student, has been a fan of the Crew since 1996 after attending his first match with his youth soccer team. This was the first time Williams had ever seen a professional team play soccer and his fandom grew from there. 

Williams said the players of the Crew are more accessible then some other sports and fans are able to talk to the players and they will reach out to fans, which makes it feel like a family. 

Williams added that the atmosphere at Lower.com was louder than Historic Crew Stadium and even exceeded the volume at U.S. National Team games, attributing it to the stadium’s design. 

“I think it’s the roof and how the stands are steeper,”  Williams said. “I was sitting in the upper deck and it felt like I was right on top of the field.” 

Williams said he plans to bring his children to upcoming Crew games as he sees them as the next generation of Crew fans. 

In the inaugural match, New England scored the first two goals ever scored at Lower.com Field, as forwards Tajon Buchanan and Gustavo Bou each found the net in the first 30 minutes. 

Crew forward Gyasi Zardes became the first Crew player to find the net in the new stadium’s history, cutting the Revolution lead in half with six minutes before halftime. 

Columbus drew first blood in the second half off of a Revolution own goal, which was forced thanks to pressure from Zardes on the New England backend. Despite numerous chances in the second half, the Crew were unable to break the tie. 

Zardes emphasized the importance the crowd at Lower.com Field played in the Crew’s historic comeback.

“It was electric, the atmosphere was incredible from the warmups,” Zardes said. “Just to be able to play in front of a crowd like that and come back from being down by two goals shows a lot and it was a great way to open up the stadium.”