Crew extend McCullers contract

Stadium-naming rights, shirt sponsor high on CLB to-do list

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Columbus Crew president and general manager Mark McCullers knows he possesses something many pro sports executives don’t have: long-term security.

Hunts Sports Group announced Wednesday that McCullers' contract has been extended through 2014, which would be his 16th year with the organization and 10th season as GM. He was promoted to president in 2008.

“Last December was my 12-year anniversary with the team,” he told MLSsoccer.com. “It’s really unheard of for this industry for somebody to be with an organization, much less a GM position, for that long. I’m very proud of that. It does give me a chance to be a little more aggressive and that’s where I want to be. If that wasn’t the case I probably wouldn’t be as enthusiastic about the opportunity.”

Under his watch, the Crew won the MLS Cup in 2008, the Supporters’ Shield that year and the next and advanced to the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League in 2009 and ’10.

“The success achieved by the Crew during his tenure is well-documented, and he is uniquely qualified to leverage the experiences he’s had and relationships he’s built in that time,” said Hunt Sports Group chairman Clark Hunt in a statement.

McCullers, 48, cited three major off-field goals for the organization over the next four years: stadium-naming rights, a jersey sponsor and getting the season-ticket base to 10,000.

He came to Columbus in 1998 to help open Crew Stadium the following May, and has been looking for a corporate partner for the venue ever since.

“It’s been 12 years,” he said. “It’s ludicrous that we don’t have one. We’re the only team in the league that doesn’t have one and I’ve said before it’s not only a black eye on the Crew, it’s a black eye on Columbus that we don’t have this figured out.”

He has been working with Mayor Michael Coleman’s office and the Columbus Partnership – a group of 30 local chief executives – to find a sponsor.

“I’ve been very encouraged by the synergy of working with those guys so far,” McCullers said.

The Crew had better luck with their jersey when Glidden Paint was on the front from 2008 to 2010 before deciding not to renew. The search continues for a new sponsor.

“There’s nothing imminent, but if something comes along this year we would certainly be able to take care of it right away,” he said.

As for season tickets, McCullers said the team is a little more than halfway toward reaching five figures.

“That’s critical because that drives every part of the business – sponsorships and ancillary revenues and everything else," he said, "because if we can get to 10,000 season-ticket holders then we are going to be averaging 16-, 17-000 paid a game."

The Crew averaged 14,642 last season. McCullers also said seeking a new stadium or renovating the current one and building a new training facility are secondary goals to the three major ones.

“If we can do the three I’m talking about right now, we’ll be financially stable,” he added. “In fact, we’ll have some resources that can help facilitate some of those other projects. That’s why I have the focus on these three things, because they will put us in position to do the other things.”