The story that broke Monday in the Sports Business Journal about the Las Vegas Sports and Entertainment Group buying an undisclosed stake in the Columbus Crew was an exaggeration, according to both the team and Paul Caligiuri, the former U.S. national team player who is spokesman for the investor group. Shawn Mitchell reports both sides as attempting to play down talk of any potential deal.
Caligiuri had been quoted in the SBJ as saying that the deal is "pretty close to being in the final stages." Crew General Manager Mark McCullers told Mitchell, "This is something that is ongoing. For us, it's business as usual. This is not going to be a distraction. If it happens, great. It shows the value in the Columbus Crew and what we have been building."
Caligiuri wrote an e-mail to Mitchell saying the story was not accurate, though he didn't elaborate. "Not much to say," he wrote. "I believe I was misunderstood and [the information] was wrongly stated."
Although the initial report indicated that the Las Vegas group would not move the team, and that current majority owner, the Hunt Group, would continue to operate the team and retain its majority ownership status, the report has inevitably lead to speculation about the future of the loss-making Crew, despite the team having its own stadium. "Soccer-specific stadiums are still valuable and still not easy to get [built]," McCullers said. "I don't think moving the Crew is something the league is interested in doing." MLS would not comment because it doesn't consider the Crew's dealings to be "a league issue at the moment."
Rather than move the team to Las Vegas, the Caligiuri group may also be a step toward "building and filling a planned $500 million retractable-roof stadium and hotel/casino development," writes Mitchell. With the Crew as primary tenant, the stadium could also be used for the MLS All-Star game and (don't get too excited, folks) international exhibition games.