MLS in Austin Stadium Watch: McKalla Place
On January 17th, local real estate lawyer and lobbyist for Precourt Sports Ventures (PSV) Richard Suttle reported to the Statesman that both the Travis County Expo Center site in far East Austin as well as the Home Depot tract of land at IH-35 and St. Johns Avenue were no longer being considered as viable stadium sites for a potential MLS franchise. While the Toomey Road site was our early favorite for consideration it too was removed from consideration on January 26th. One site still under consideration — McKalla Place — has generated almost as much enthusiasm on social media as downtown due to its proximity to existing entertainment options, accessibility from all parts of the metro area, as well as the ongoing and planned developments in the immediate vicinity.
With millions of square feet of office space occupied by some of the world’s largest tech companies (Amazon, Facebook, HomeAway/Expedia), as well as a multitude of retail and entertainment options within its borders, the Domain has continued to realize it’s mission statement of becoming Austin’s second downtown. We see a stadium at the McKalla Place site as the perfect anchor to tie both existing and future developments along the north Burnet Road corridor together into an even more cohesive, walkable urban district accessible by rail, bus, bike, car and ride-share.
The McKalla Place site is a 24-acre parcel of city-owned, non-parkland property, located in the North Burnet neighborhood in-between Burnet Road and Metric Boulevard — roughly a mile from the bustling Domain live-work-play development and adjacent to Austin’s nascent warehouse brewery district.
Major League Soccer and PSV have both stated repeatedly that one of the primary requirements for a successful MLS stadium is an urban-core location complimented by a variety of bars, restaurants and other entertainment options to augment the matchday experience both before and after the game. Although technically just a mile north of the Land Development Code’s definition of the “Urban Core,” the North Burnet/Domain area today checks all of the boxes needed for an urban matchday experience, and would even more so in the few years it would take to build a stadium as more high-rises and amenities continue to be built in the immediate area.
While the site is convenient enough for those living north of Town Lake, Austinites living in South and Far South Austin may find themselves trekking much further north than usual — one of the biggest drawbacks of the McKalla location.
To it’s credit, McKalla is directly served by a multitude of public transportation options — more so than any other proposed stadium location — from the local #3 bus line, the #803 MetroRapid bus which runs from South Austin near Westgate Blvd and Ben White up to the Domain, to the Red Line MetroRail service which has a stop located at Kramer Lane just north of the proposed site. Traveling south from the Lakeline Station by rail is a short 16 minute trip, and it’s only a 25 minute trip north from Downtown — about the same time it would take via MoPac or IH-35 by car. The Red Line station at Kramer is also in the process of being added to the Northern Walnut Creek trail system, connecting the site to a beautiful metropolitan park almost the size of Austin’s beloved Zilker Park and dozens of miles of fantastic trails.
Lastly, for MLS fans and families living in the northern suburbs of Round Rock, Pflugerville, and Cedar Park the location is conveniently accessible by IH-35 via Parmer Lane, MoPac, and Highway 183 by automobile, and the size of the McKalla site provides ample space for several hundred — if not thousands — parking spaces.
Anyone who has traveled along the Burnet Road corridor north of 183 can attest to the fact that the stretch of road is virtually unrecognizable from what it was five years ago, and the area continues to be built so fast Google Streetview can hardly catch up.
As any soccer fan will tell you, beer is the ultimate matchday companion, and the North Burnet area is one of the absolute best in town to get your fill, with over a half-dozen breweries and taprooms within a short distance from the proposed site.
In addition, Domain Northside recently coming online brings a plethora of local (KungFu Saloon, Jack & Gingers, The Dogwood, Second Bar + Kitchen) and national (Yard House, Culinary Dropout) bar and dining options to the area. Going down Rock Rose Avenue just a short distance from McKalla Place feels much closer to walking down West Sixth Street than strolling through a shopping mall.
Combined with its ease of access from the bars and clubs adjacent to the rail station Downtown, as well as at Plaza Saltillo and MLK, the location is not only a great place to walk to entertainment options at both the Domain and the multitude of nearby breweries, but travel to via rail and bus with ease from the other main entertainment districts in the city before and after the match. If the Austin Aztex were able to partner with CapMetro to provide free MetroRail tickets to the match after the flooding at House Park, we’re confident PSV can work with the transportation company to make alternate forms of transit equally as enticing as driving.
Developers, Developers, Developers!
While it may not give the picturesque Capitol views that the Butler Shores location would, developers are busy constructing a multitude of high-rise towers that are set to give North Austin it’s very own proper skyline. From the 11-story Domain Tower at the corner of Braker and Burnet, to a 20+ story mixed-use development by Capella on Braker Lane at the northern edge of the McKalla site, the trend of building out an urban, dense environment along the north Burnet Road corridor continues at breakneck speed.
Equally as compelling is the potential for the proposed redevelopment of the IBM “Broadmoor” campus — acquired in full from IBM in 2015 by Brandywine — who recently put in a bid for the area to be the location of Amazon’s second headquarters. Currently on the city council’s docket is a proposal to rezone the Broadmoor site into a Transit Oriented District which would allow for buildings as high as 360 feet tall per the city’s current development standards — potentially over 30 stories tall each — further contributing to an even more urban, dense environment than what currently exists today.
A stadium located at McKalla Place, with an ingress on Burnet Road using the adjacent city-owned half-acre parcel of land, would fulfill the PSV and MLS vision of an urban, connected stadium, easily accessible by multiple forms of transit from all parts of the metro area.
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