Soccer stadium breaks ground despite grumbles from some neighbors

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin FC soccer fans chanted during a North Austin groundbreaking for the new stadium at McKalla place this morning.

It was a star-studded event with investor Matthew McConaughey speaking, fireworks blasting, and local officials taking pictures with Major League Soccer representatives.

In the surrounding neighborhoods, however, some people were not happy the stadium is under construction.

The $240 million stadium is expected to take about 18 months to complete and is scheduled to be functional by Spring 2021 for the team’s inaugural season.

“(Monday) represents a milestone,” said President Andy Loughnane. “This will be a community gathering place, this will be a place for MLS matches, a place for concerts, community festivals, it will be a 365-day operation.”

Austin FC broke ground on its stadium Sept. 9, 2019 (KXAN Photo/Todd Bailey)

Some in the North Austin neighborhood of Gracywoods are not thrilled they’ll soon be neighbors to a 20,000 person stadium.

They’re worried the city hasn’t approved a traffic impact plan for the site. So there’s still no official way of telling how busy that area will be.

Owner of the Austin FC, Anthony Precourt, says they’ll do what they can to be a good neighbor, including hiring a traffic consultant. Without final traffic or special event plans they’re on track to build the stadium fast for the first home game in Spring 2021.

“There’s always going to be naysayers but this is for the greater good,” said Precourt.

“This neighborhood itself has not changed that much. But everything around it has changed enormously,” said Craig Nazor, a member of the Gracywoods Neighborhood Association. He is not thrilled the stadium, new affordable housing, and the traffic that come with them could clog up Braker and Burnet Rd.

“You can’t get all of that in there. So they’re having to cut back, make compromises, instead of… it’s a really sped up deal and it’s really hard to have the public have any input on what they’re doing,” said Nazor.

The majority of city council approve of the progress and attended Monday morning’s event. Supporters like James Vinson says it puts Austin on the map as an international city… and sleepy North Austin neighborhoods might be a thing of the past.

“You have to be adaptable to change. This is such a growing city that it doesn’t matter where you live in the city. Five years from now, 10 years from now, everything is going to be different,” said Vinson.

KXAN reached out to the city of Austin to see when that traffic plan is going to be released but have not yet heard back. Since it’s city-owned land, the council approved the project going forward as it is.

McKalla Place is a prime piece of land in a fast-growing part of north Austin but there’s a reason it hasn’t already been developed. The land was home to a chemical company from the late 1950s through the mid-1980s.

The city bought the land and planned to build a service center for the water utility but construction stopped in November 2003 after an explosion injured four workers. Investigators blamed it on volatile chemicals buried on the property, leading to a multi-million dollar project to clean up the site. The work took several years to complete. Since then, the state and the city have declared the land safe for development.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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