After visit to Columbus, council member wants to scrap MLS deal

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Days before the Austin City Council is set to vote on whether or not it wants to move forward with a Major League Soccer stadium, Council Member Leslie Pool — whose district covers north Austin, including McKalla Place — traveled to Columbus, Ohio to talk with hometown Columbus Crew fans.

Pool’s office told KXAN she flew to Columbus on Sunday and met with local stakeholders and fans on Monday. Her chief of staff says she used her own money to pay for the trip.

“Part of me was hoping that if the shoe were on the other foot and Columbus was taking something of ours, that somebody would decide to come down and talk to us,” Pool said.

The council member says she toured the outside of Mapfre Stadium as well as the parcel of land that has been proposed as a possible stadium location in Columbus if the Crew were to stay. She also met with members of Save the Crew, a group pushing to keep the team in Columbus.

“For me, it was a matter of meeting face to face with people whose commentary I had seen on social media,” Pool said.

That didn’t sit well with some MLS fans in Austin, who say they feel Pool hasn’t given them that same opportunity.

MLS in Austin Vice President Andrew Urban says while other council members have been in contact with him and other fans within his nonprofit, he feels Pool has only communicated with those in her district against the stadium.

“We were surprised and disappointed that she would prioritize listening to the fans in Columbus over her own constituents,” Urban said. “Her vote matters to her constituents. She has thousands of constituents in District 7 that want the stadium deal to pass, and they’re not being heard.”

In response to local MLS fans, Pool said, “I hear in all the meetings how the supporters feel about it. They come, and they tell us in great numbers. We get emails, and I read the emails. I certainly read the comments on my Facebook feed and on Twitter.”

Pool says after visiting Columbus, she doesn’t feel taking away part of the city’s identity is how Austin should go about bringing in a pro sports team.

“I don’t want to take a team from another town,” Pool said after her trip. “They’ve been in Columbus for 20 years, so there’s a really strong fabric up there. It’s a part of people’s lives.”

Pool says while she was in Columbus, she also got a look at the infrastructure in place to handle the traffic coming in and out of the stadium for games. She said she doesn’t feel Austin is prepared to handle the traffic in the same way as Columbus.

The Austin City Council will start the special meeting on the MLS stadium at 9 a.m. Wednesday. A vote is expected by 11:30 a.m. However, Pool says she plans to pitch scrapping the stadium deal and starting from scratch on a plan for pro sports in Austin.

Before the council decided to postpone the vote during last week’s meeting, Pool said if a deal doesn’t happen “it is because [team owner Anthony] Precourt has done a very poor job of trying to negotiate and convince city leadership that he should be here at all.” 

Pool has repeatedly said she’s making sure the decision she makes is representative of what her constituents want from the city-owned land. There are currently several other proposals that would turn the lot into a mixed-use development.

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