Thursday, August 9th, our Austin City Council will be faced with a choice. One that, in all honesty, is a simple choice being complicated to an extreme.
There are two options: Do we say yes to a privately funded, $200 million stadium on unused city land near the Domain, and secure the city’s first true professional sports franchise, or do we say no and continue to be ruthlessly afraid of our future?
Let’s not fool ourselves into thinking this is just one of many chances. This may be Austin’s only chance at Major League Soccer, and, indeed, at a top-tier franchise in any sport.
In 2005, our San Antonio neighbors had a similar chance. They were courted by the league, trying to move a floundering franchise, and were already collecting season ticket pledges, when, suddenly, a new mayor slammed the door on Commissioner Don Garber’s face. That team, which could have brought MLS to San Antonio, instead became the Houston Dynamo. Ever since, the movement to bring MLS to San Antonio has been a wistful, unsuccessful cause for those with a vision for pro soccer in San Antonio.
Now, Austin is in almost the same spot that San Antonio was thirteen years ago. Except, in almost every measurable way, we have a better deal. To top that, it’s not simply better than the deal San Antonio would have gotten in 2005, it’s a superior deal for all Austinites.
Here’s a brief summary of the facts of the proposed term sheet: Precourt Sports Ventures will spend $200 million of their own money to build a community stadium on 24 acres of city land at 10414 McKalla Place, then give the stadium to the City of Austin and pay $8.2 million over 20 years to lease it back.
In addition to all that, they’ve proposed a $98 million community benefits package, including donations to affordable housing in Austin, a thousand complimentary tickets per MLS match to locals, and the fully-subsidized MLS academy for 124 young Austinites.
The city, as the owner of the venue, will be obligated to carry insurance on the venue, and invest about 30% of the incoming rent in the upkeep of the stadium — a sum that is also matched by PSV.
That’s pretty much it. No tax dollars to build it, no parkland being taken, and no displacement of any Austin businesses.
Alternative plans have been proposed for the site, and to the credit of their architects, they are clearly honest attempts to use the site efficiently. However, they are yet more proposals for mixed-use development, with the primary beneficiary being their developers’ pocketbooks, and no ongoing benefits to our Austin community once they get their hands on the land.
These plans do not get Austin a soccer team. These plans do not get us a youth academy. These plans do not give Austin a chance to pull together for a team of our own.
It’s clear: MLS at McKalla provides the biggest community benefit for all of Austin.
For some reason, some members of Austin City Council have lost sight of that.
We were there on June 28 when hundreds of Austinites showed up at City Hall on a hot Thursday evening, many for the first time.
We saw how the line to get past security was nearly a block long, and how the fire marshal closed off City Council chambers due to it being at capacity.
We saw the young men and women of our city’s youth soccer teams bravely speak before their City Council.
We heard dozens of soccer parents, soccer players, and community members voice their support in one-minute increments.
And finally, we heard the chambers burst into applause at the passage of a resolution authorizing the beginning of negotiations at 3 a.m. on Friday morning.
Perhaps City Council has forgotten that night. We haven’t.
We are but a small part of the Austin soccer community, a group who believes in the power of soccer as a unifying force for our city. We hope you will join us at City Hall on Thursday to remind our City Council the importance of saying yes to Major League Soccer in Austin.
Thank you for your support!
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