Columbus Crew owner Dee Haslam: 'We're committed to winning'

The Columbus Crew has been saved. Now it is about keeping it a winning team and getting its new stadium built.

That was the theme of Wednesday's introduction of the new ownership group, new president Tim Bezbatchenko and new head coach Caleb Porter at the Ivory Room in downtown Columbus.

Speaking for the new owners were Dee Haslam, who owns the NFL Cleveland Browns along with her husband Jimmy Haslam, and Pete Edwards, the Crew's former team doctor dating back to the team's launch in 1996 on behalf of the Edwards family.

Dee Haslam acknowledged that it isn't easy for her to speak about winning. The Browns have not had a winning season since the Haslams bought the team from Randy Lerner in 2012, going 1-15-0 in 2016 and 0-16-0 in 2017 before improving to 7-8-1 in 2018. The Crew, on the other hand, has only has two losing seasons in the 10 years since it won MLS Cup in 2008.

"It's a big investment," she said. "We're committed to winning. It's so important to win for a community. We obviously have experienced not winning [with the Browns], so winning is so important. We get that message loud and clear."

She said the club's big hires speak to that commitment. Porter coached the Portland Timbers to the 2015 MLS Cup title and Toronto FC reached MLS Cup the next two seasons, winning in 2017, with Bezbatchenko in place as general manager.

Edwards said his children grew up around the Crew players, so he appreciates how important it is to fans and the community.

“We think this about soccer," he said. "We think this about a team, but it really isn’t. It’s about a community. It’s about having pride in our city, and it’s about having pride in our team. All those things roll into the fabric of our community."

Haslam said work should start this summer on the stadium the owners are committed to building on the Arena District site in the downtown area and promised to be visible in the community.

“We’ll start doing that immediately,” she said. “You’ll see us out and about. You may get a little tired of seeing us.”

Haslam has homes in both the Knoxville, Tennessee, and Cleveland areas. (Her brother-in-law Bill Haslam is the governor of Tennessee.)

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