COLUMBUS – In preparation for Sunday’s Hell is Real Derby, presented by Tipico Sportsbook, the Columbus Crew this week are heating up the rivalry with engaging events and moments for supporters throughout Central Ohio ahead of their home match against FC Cincinnati [7:30 p.m. ET / Free to watch on Apple TV / FS1; 97.1 The Fan (English); La Mega 103.1 FM (Spanish)].
The Crew’s Hell is Real Week is focused on building anticipation and excitement with Black & Gold fans and the city for this weekend’s sold-out rivalry matchup, the team’s 10th consecutive MLS sellout and 11th overall at Lower.com Field in 2023, plus its Leagues Cup group stage game against Club América. Both the streak and total number of capacity crowds are all-time franchise records.
“We are extremely proud to represent Columbus throughout the year, and Hell is Real Week and this match are incredible opportunities to highlight how the passion of our Club, our supporters and our city are completely unrivaled,” said President of Business Operations Kristin Bernert. “It’s a weeklong celebration of Central Ohio where the energy will be maxed out during Sunday’s match, which will have plenty of special moments for our fans.”
“Winning the Hell is Real derby is most important to our supporters, and our fans can play a key role by continuing to show their passion at Lower.com Field this entire week as we increase excitement by engaging them in innovative, meaningful ways,” said President and General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko. “While we are always striving to win each and every match, rivalry matches provide special atmospheres for our players, coaches, staff and supporters.”
Hell is Real Derby, presented by Tipico Sportsbook, matchday elements
To open Sunday’s festivities, the Crew and supporters will “March to the Match” from Battelle Plaza to Lower.com Field at 5:30 p.m. The group will then welcome the Black & Gold during team arrivals at the West Lobby at approximately 6 p.m.
Starting 96 minutes before kickoff, Crew supporters can gather and celebrate with food and drink specials and fun activations at The Pub and Chase Plaza. In addition to popular weekly elements, Music Columbus’ MoJo Flow and the Divas! will entertain with live music, plus fans can cast their vote in the Hell is Real Hot Sauce Tasting Contest featuring four local businesses. One supporter who participates will be selected to win a bottle of the contestants’ sauces and Crew-themed memorabilia.
Prior to kickoff, RJD2 – a well-known artist from Columbus who has performed throughout the country – will begin spinning tracks as the Crew’s in-stadium DJ to hype up the crowd throughout the Hell is Real match.
The Black & Gold will once again spark excitement with a unique Match Ignitor for Sunday’s contest. The Match Ignitor was introduced to the team’s pre-match elements for each game in 2023 to celebrate notable leaders in Columbus prior kickoff.
Additionally, supporters will be able get their own taste of the Hell is Real matchup with food and beverage offerings crafted specifically for the rivalry game at Lower.com Field.
- Donatos Hell is Real Pizza – Currently available at Central Ohio locations, Donatos will prepare its rivalry-inspired pizza, featuring hot chicken, jalapenos and sliced pickle with a ranch drizzle.
- Dirty Frank’s Hell is Real Dog – The spiciest hot dog on their menu, the coney includes cheddar, sriracha cream cheese, Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and hot sauce.
- Spicy Buffalo Chicken Sandwich – Buffalo chicken sandwich topped with pepper jack cheese, lettuce, tomato and ranch, plus a side of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. Available at Donatos (northeast corner) and Columbus Craves (upper and lower locations).
- Cheddar jalapeno brat – Bratwurst served with jalapeno nacho cheese, diced spicey peppers and green onions. Offered at Links and Beers.
- Mini corndogs – Available with chipotle ranch dipping sauce at The Pub
- Flamin’ Hot Smokestack – Macaroni and cheese with pulled pork, chipotle barbeque sauce, Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and green onions. Can be found at BBQ Stands located near Sections 105 and 130.
- Spicy Meatball Sub – Served at The Pub, Grandma Fortunata’s meatballs on a hoagie with Calabrian chili pepper tomato sauce and melted mozzarella.
- Hell or High Water Cocktail – Tequila margarita with mango and strawberry complemented by cayenne and sprinkled banana cotton candy.
Heck is Plausible Pig Roast
Starting at 5 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 19, the Club will host its inaugural Hell is Real Pig Roast prior to Crew 2’s “Heck is Plausible” derby against FC Cincinnati 2 at Historic Crew Stadium [6 p.m. ET, / MLS Season Pass on Apple TV]. Crew 2 General Manager Corey Wray and select First Team players who helped the team claim the first MLS NEXT Pro Cup are expected to participate in the pre-match ceremonies. To elevate the matchday experience, the Crew are offering free entry to the game for fans, who can enjoy the Pig Roast with a $15 ticket that includes a pulled pork sandwich, two sides, water and entertainment.
The Hell is Real Pig Roast is a nod to the Kentucky-bordering city’s “Porkopolis” moniker born from its position in the pork and meat-packing industry during the 19th century, as well as its population’s current fascination with flying pigs (which for clarity, do not exist). Cap City will celebrate its Club and supporters during the event while looking to cap the weekend with two home victories.
Hell is Real replica signs installed throughout Central Ohio
The Crew in partnership with Tipico Sportsbook on Friday installed a replica Hell is Real sign (12’ x 9’) at Battelle Plaza, which also features information on next Sunday’s match. Fans are encouraged to post photos with the sign on social media and include #Crew96 for a chance to win one of five signed "The Catch" shirts.
In addition to Battelle Plaza, the Crew have procured Hell is Real promotional signage on the digital board located at the corner of High and State Streets, as well as various boards in the region. In total, there will be 30 billboards in place across Central Ohio during the week ahead of the derby.
Columbus Crew Blood Drive Competition, presented by OhioHealth
The Columbus Crew in partnership with American Red Cross are hosting a blood drive (Aug. 1-25), presented by OhioHealth, throughout Central Ohio as part of a competition with FC Cincinnati to help save lives in the Buckeye State.
The winners of the inaugural Crew vs. FC Cincinnati Blood Drive Competition will receive a new trophy, co-designed by each club’s supporters group, that will spend the next year in the hometown of the club with the most donations.
The Black & Gold and American Red Cross are formally activating on select dates at five Central Ohio locations, where donors will receive commemorative “I Bleed Black and Gold” t-shirts, while supplies last.
- Thursday, Aug. 3 – Hilliard United Methodist Church
- Thursday Aug. 10 – Downtown Columbus American Red Cross
- Wednesday, Aug. 16 – Dublin Community Church
- Saturday, Aug. 19 – Lower.com Field
- Thursday, Aug. 24 – Mifflin Presbyterian Church
From 11 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturday, Crew supporters can donate blood at Lower.com Field. The event will also feature games, treats provided by United Dairy Farmers and more.
Additional Hell is Real Week elements
- On Monday, the Crew and Cucho Hernández hosted an event for Season Ticket Members to receive an exclusive first look at this year’s rivalry merchandise at Lower.com Field’s Crew Team Shop. Among the items available to Season Ticket Members that day and all Crew supporters through matchday are “It is Real” scarves and Cucho’s “The Catch” t-shirt, which features an image of the forward’s likeness and plays on a massive moment of the rivalry. Photos of the Hell is Real items are available for download, courtesy of the Columbus Crew.
- This month, the Crew launched an online trivia contest: One Hell of An Experience. Supporters who answer Hell is Real and Crew trivia in the fastest times will have the chance to win four tickets to the derby, four Huntington Field Club passes, a ride from Cardinal Transportation to and from the game and a pre-match photo on the pitch.
- MLS’ first club will host supporter engagements at Columbus Commons from 11 a.m.-2p.m. on Thursday. The event includes fan activations, food trucks and Crew giveaway items. The team hosted a similar gathering at Bridge Park on Tuesday.
- On Thursday, Donatos (Short North location) will host “Crew Day” as part of Hell is Real Week with specials from 5-7 p.m. Joined by Crew Goalkeeper Patrick Schulte from 5-6 p.m., everyone wearing Black & Gold gear will receive 20 percent off all food purchased, including the new Hell is Real Pizza that was selected via online vote by Crew supporters. Fans can also order the pie with a $5 discount through matchday.
- The Crew and FC Cincinnati will face off in an eMLS Hell is Real friendly at 8 p.m. on Friday, which will be streamed live on Twitch.
- Indus Hotels is serving their Hell is Real Cocktail at Goodale Station this week. Providing a smokey and spicey flavor, the black drink is highlighted by gold sparkles.
- The Black & Gold provided more than 70 bars in the Short North and Arena District with Crew banners, flags and merchandise to fully embrace the upcoming rivalry match.
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