Major League Soccer and Austin — A Perfect Match

NOTE: A shorter version of this editorial first appeared in the Austin American Statesman on March, 21, 2018.

Austin is at the precipice of bringing its first professional sports franchise to our city. The City Council debate and scheduled vote on March 22nd that would direct a detailed city staff review of the McKalla Place site, southeast of the Domain, for a potential soccer/mixed-use community stadium is a milestone for our city.

We in the MLS (Major League Soccer) in Austin Supporters Group have been working towards this day since 2013. It is our belief that Austin has been a “Major League” city long before Major League Soccer, via Precourt Sports Ventures (PSV) came calling last October. It is precisely the nature of Austin, our creativity, our multicultural backgrounds, and our inclusivity that has MLS coming to us with this opportunity as opposed to how other cities nationwide are having to vie for a franchise to be granted them.

It’s clear Major League Soccer wants Austin. Now the question is does Austin want Major League Soccer?

The answer, as we’ve seen since the October announcement last year, is an emphatic: Yes.

“We don’t have very many big events bring everybody in our community together. Major League Soccer would bring in everyone, one of the reasons I support it.” — Mayor Adler

We have been overwhelmed by the show of support and excitement from all segments of Austin life. From youth soccer to community advocates, we’ve received excited words of encouragement on what Major League Soccer could mean to our city.

We’ve seen the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce ask for the City to go all in for the proposal to bring MLS to Austin. We’ve heard from the LGBT Chamber discussing the inclusiveness that soccer represents worldwide. The Greater Austin Asian Chamber of Commerce has also declared their support, as well as the Austin Chamber of Commmerce. We’ve been told how the team will support tourism year-round compared to event-based tourism.

The support of several council members and our mayor have reflected what we’ve known and heard. Mayor Adler said on March 20th: “We don’t have very many big events bring everybody in our community together. Major League Soccer would bring in everyone, one of the reasons I support it.” Council Member Ora Houston chimed in with how soccer “crosses ethnic and racial bounds.”

We could even seen the prospect of something amazingly rare in Austin happen…it could even bring Longhorns and Aggies together!

The support we’ve seen from around Austin has been further proof to what we’ve already known: Austin is a soccer city.

Now the question before the City Council is whether or not Major League Soccer is good business for our city?

We’ve already seen how PSV listened to the public during this process and agreed to proactively remove parkland sites from consideration based upon that feedback. Now, with the McKalla Place near the Domain as its the choice moving forward, PSV has outlined a specific list of community benefits they see for Austin over the next 25 years as a result of this union of Major League Soccer and Austin.

PSV detailed a $326 million dollar package on March 19th with these being a few of the city-wide benefits: a U.S. Soccer Development Academy, local nonprofit organization support, hundreds of local jobs, and a partnership with the Austin Independent School District. Longtime Austin economist Angelos Angelou even described the 326 million dollar estimate as “completely understated.”

It is truly unprecedented for a major league sports franchise to commit so specifically to how they intend to not just do business in a city, but to so wholly incorporate themselves into the community.

Major League Soccer wants to be a part of Austin. Thursday’s 3/22 vote by our city council is one more chance for us to show we believe they would become a wonderful part of our community. Soccer is a creative, dynamic and inclusive sport that is the absolute right fit for Austin as those characteristics are deep in the fabric of the Austin people. It’s a perfect match.

We ask the City Council to work in earnest to support this effort, to negotiate with Precourt Sports Ventures in a way that promotes Austin values, and to then join us in March 2019 for the start of our first season with a professional soccer team.

Thank you for your support!

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