North Austin MLS site under consideration

AUSTIN (KXAN) - At Thursday's meeting, the Austin City Council considered moving forward on seriously considering 10414 McKalla Place as a Major League Soccer stadium site. 

The resolution would direct the city manager to do further analysis of the north Austin site and provide an assessment of community benefits by June 1. 

The economic analysis would include: 

  • Financial opportunities and challenges;
  • Traffic considerations; and
  • A community engagement plan with stakeholders.

Out of eight city sites identified, city staff said this property, "situated in Austin’s preferred growth corridor, could be well-poised for a soccer stadium due to its size, proximal commercial activity, accessibility, and the potential for employment opportunities." 

Last month, the Parks and Recreation Board recommended council members remove east Austin's Roy G. Guerrero Park from the list of possible sites for an MLS stadium. There was a good deal of backlash from the community about that proposed location, as well as the community surrounding Butler Shores. 

Precourt Sports Ventures originally hoped to bring the Columbus, Ohio-based Columbus Crew team to a stadium in the "urban core" of Austin, ideally on the shores of Lady Bird Lake next to downtown.

Earlier this month, CEO Anthony Precourt issued a statement saying, "We’ve heard the concerns about a possible site for a stadium. Soccer is inclusive and celebratory, so we want to shift the focus onto the long-term benefits of a location that works for everybody."

Precourt added the McKalla property has "potential" and said he will continue to work with the city to assess the viability of that location to build a stadium that holds 20,000 people. 

Mason Thom's family owns Austin Window Fashions, a business that would neighbor the potential MLS stadium site on McKalla, if approved. 

"I think the addition of a soccer stadium here would be a good thing for the city, it may affect the traffic a little bit, but that's something we have to deal with in a growing city," he said. 

Thom said he can understand the appeal of the location because of all of the growth happening in north Austin. It's a reason why he and his wife moved north. 

"It had a pretty big effect on where we wanted to buy a house. Just because we know the growth is coming," Thom said. 

City council will have to consider what the city would gain from adding an MLS stadium on McKalla, versus using that property for something else. For example, the city's real estate department has looked at the site for potential affordable housing development.

Ryan Espinoza says he lives about five minutes down the road from the proposed site and sees the benefits MLS could bring to the community.

"The way I look at it, it's better than condos and storage units and other stuff. I think the community would be able to use it more. Maybe it might bring more revenue to the city," Espinoza said. "It would be more diverse, more people, we just gotta figure out the whole traffic issue." 

A neighbor with the North Austin Civic Association says she and others also have questions about the cost, understanding the Columbus Crew owner has said the stadium would be privately funded, but wanting to know for sure.

Council Member Alison Alter posted a letter (see below) from Stanford University Economic Professor Emeritus, Roger Noll, on the council message board. The letter talked about some of the potential benefits and unforeseen problems of an MLS stadium. He points out any stadium plans need to be factored into an area and neighborhood's long-term plans.

Noll also points out sports teams are rarely destinations for tourists, saying there's too much competition, and locals usually buy up the most tickets.That can be different for a team such as the Dallas Cowboys. He does acknowledge an Austin soccer team might do well, by pulling in fans from San Antonio.

The professor also cautions about how construction of a stadium could draw resources from other construction projects in the city. That is something project managers would need to take into account.

Stadium Letter Stanford by kxanwebteam on Scribd

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and the city of Columbus have filed a lawsuit against Precourt Sports Ventures, stating, “Loyal Crew fans in Columbus have invested their time and loyalty in this team, and they have allowed the Crew SC to capitalize from financial incentives paid for by their tax dollars. I am left with no other choice than to file this suit to ensure our laws are followed." 

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