Open Letter to the Austin City Council

Below is a guest editorial from Sergio Tristan, an Austin District 7 resident and founder of Pancho Villa’s Army.

There has been a lot of discussion about the finances involving the MLS2ATX soccer deal being voted on this coming week. Is it economically good for Austin? How much rent is Precourt and MLS paying to Austin? Is there enough park and green space? How much low-income housing space is being provided? Who is paying for transportation in and out of the stadium?

Do you know what has been lost in the discussion, how soccer can potentially positively impact our Hispanic community?

Before I am attacked as an outsider or worse let me back up. I am born and raised in Austin. Not in the Austin most of you readers know but in the Austin that spoke Spanish, that lives east of I35, and that has been playing soccer long before MLS came knocking. I went to school at Palm Elementary, Mendez Middle School, Kealing Jr. High, and the LBJ Science Academy. I graduated from the University of Texas before departing for the Army. I began playing soccer at the YMCA and then moved into the club system beginning with the Austin Flyers, Austin Chaps, and Austin Capitals. I am Austin and I want MLS, but not for the reasons you think.

I want MLS because I believe that soccer can open doors for kids just like me. Soccer helped me cross from east and south Austin to west Austin. It helped me see a different part of Austin that I had never experienced. What may seem “normal” to many of you was not to me, and is not now to many Hispanic kids. I never attended a University of Texas football game as a kid. My father did not take me to alumni events on campus. My parents were not part of the rotary clubs, lions clubs, or many of the other organizations that dominate the social scene in west Austin. I experienced west Austin because I earned a youth soccer scholarship with a soccer club composed mostly of Westlake families.

Austin agreeing to a deal with MLS will open an area of Austin that is traditionally not open to kids from east Austin.

I am a resident of district 7. I am not saying district 7 is a “no Hispanic” zone but it’s certainly not an area of town known for a high Hispanic population. The 2010 census reports that the district is only 22.4% Hispanic-Latino. I am one of those 22.4% living in District 7 and I disagree with my city council member. I agree that affordable housing is important, green park space is important, and all the other concerns are valid. However, for a city that continues to be very segregated, at a time in our country when the Hispanic and immigrant communities are continuously under attack, Austin has a great opportunity to bring a uniting community event that will draw people from all over Austin to a part of Austin has not traditionally been accessible to kids from east Austin.

Kids who have been playing soccer since they could walk. Kids whose parents have been playing soccer in dirt fields long before Austin had an organized men’s league. Parents who are not city employees or musicians who would qualify or understand how to apply for affordable housing. Parents whose jobs are cleaning homes, cutting grass, and doing all the other jobs in Austin that have to get done but few want to do.

There are many places where the city can build affordable housing. There are plenty of open spaces that can be converted to parks and recreational areas. There is only one location suitable to the MLS for an MLS franchise stadium. Please approve the MLS partnership deal.

Sergio L. Tristan
Concerned Resident of District 7


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