After a meeting that lasted until the City Council’s midnight deadline and being loaded up with a raft of amendments and newly revised terms sheet, Precourt Sports Venture’s proposed Major League Soccer stadium for Austin remains in limbo. Precourt currently owns the Columbus Crew soccer team and has been positioning for more than a year to move it from Ohio to Texas.
While a packed chamber, along with followers from around the city as well as Columbus, intently watched, commented on, and tweeted about the proceedings (including four hours of citizen communication and the addition of around 25 amendments), the council eventually decided to postpone its final vote to a special meeting, called for Wednesday, August 15, at 9 a.m., with a mandate for a final vote at 11 a.m. The council did not look at any of the alternative development proposals for McKalla Place, the city-owned property where the stadium would be built, according to a Friday report by the Austin Business Journal’s Daniel Salazar.
What’s in it for us?
Under the terms of the initial stadium proposal for McKalla Place, released in late July, Precourt would finance the development of the $190 million stadium (including the payment of related taxes and fees), and the city would sign a 20-year lease for the property with the company. Precourt would not pay rent for six years, after which it would pay $550,000 annually. As the stadium and land would remain the city’s, PSV would not pay property taxes.
Other initial provisions of the proposal include one acre’s being set aside for 130 affordable-housing units on the site’s southeast side; an agreement for Precourt to collaborate on finding financing for a MetroRail station next to the stadium; the inclusion of eight acres of public green space, open space, and performance areas; an agreement that Precourt and the city both contribute to the capital repairs reserve fund after six years on the site; and the requirement that the team include “Austin” in its name.
A Friday Austin Chronicle article by Austin Sanders detailed some of the items on the revised term sheet, which was released the night before the meeting. They included an up-front payment of $640,000 for Capital Metro transit facility improvements, along with an additional $3 million in future payments; pinning down dates for onsite affordable housing to be built; and reserving 1,000 tickets to be sold at affordable prices.
There were more negotiations Thursday, according to Sanders. Those included a non-relocation clause that would require PSV to pay $1 million for every year remaining on its lease if the team leaves early; a requirement that PSV follow through on an estimated $72,806,951, to be paid over 20 years, in proposed community benefits; and consideration of ticket surcharges that would contribute to transportation, site maintenance, and other associated stadium costs.
Gender equity becomes an issue
A last-minute—but major—sticking point was a little matter all sides seem to have overlooked. On Thursday, the Austin American-Statesman’s Chris Bils reported that one of term sheet’s proposed community benefits was the funding of an all-boys player development academy, costing approximately $36 million over 20 years—but nothing to be allocated for a similar girls’ facility.
Precourt lobbyist Richard Suttle said at Thursday’s council meeting that “we didn’t even think about it,” according to Bils, and proposed removing the boys academy—a move that would seemingly jeopardize the deal, since its inclusion is a requirement of Major League Soccer clubs—from the funding proposal.
Rather than proposing not to fulfill that requirement, Bils reported, PSV instead reached an agreement with with Lonestar Soccer Club—the designated U.S. Soccer Development Academy for boys and girls in the region—to help fund the Lonestar academies, dedicated to the growth and development of soccer in East Austin and its Women’s Professional Soccer League pro-am team.
While Lonestar Soccer Club President Buck Baccus indicated that the move would be sufficient to meet Lonestar’s standard for gender equity in the deal, Bils reported that Danny Woodfill, the general manager of United Women’s Soccer pro-am team FC Austin Elite, told the council that “[in] this deal, we need a place to play soccer. We don’t need a new girls soccer academy. We don’t need a new girls soccer team.” Since the amount of money PSV has committed wasn’t made public, its unclear if it is equivalent to the $36 million it proposes to contribute to the boys’ academy.
In response, Suttle said that if PSV is able to secure the stadium deal and relocate Columbus Crew SC, it might be possible to bring a team in the top-tier National Women’s Soccer League to Austin—something for which he said PSV “was in the beginning stages of conducting a feasibility study.”
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