Council votes to identify city-owned site possibilities for MLS

MLS Crew Union Soccer_563847

Columbus Crew’s Mohammed Abu in action during the second half of an MLS soccer match against the Philadelphia Union, Wednesday, July 26, 2017, in Chester, Pa. Philadelphia won 3-0. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

AUSTN (KXAN) — The Austin City Council approved a resolution to identify city-owned sites that could become a home for a Major League Soccer team. The move comes less than a month after the Columbus Crew Soccer Club announced it’s considering a move to the live music capital.

Thursday night, Council decided to expand the search from the downtown area to the entire city. Even though this is still early on in the process, dozens of MLS fans rallied together on the steps of City Hall to share their excitement about the possibility of professional soccer having a future in Austin.

“I’ve been playing since I was 3 years, old so it’s really important to me,” 12-year-old Luke Marcum told KXAN.

For him, it’s be a dream to have soccer heroes right in his hometown.

“I would like to grow up where I can go see MLS games ’cause I play soccer and it’s be really exciting for me to see the people that are professionals,” Marcum said.

But, there’s a flip side. The traffic impact surrounding potential site locations, worries about programs being displaced and concerns about the possible use of parkland are all issues that must be addressed.

“It is at the end of the day taxpayer-owned assets and we want the public to have a role in how those get used,” Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo said.

When it comes to public parkland, there are situations where a public vote is required.

“We will have to have a really thorough public conversation about whether that’s an appropriate use,” Tovo said. “If our goal is to try to have a soccer team, a major league soccer team here in Austin, we need all of those options on the table both private and public.”

Tovo says if the city partners with MLS on a location, it will have opportunities it wouldn’t if a stadium were built on private land. For example, looking at programs for youth offered in other cities with MLS, or exploring other community uses of a stadium such as a site for holding graduation ceremonies.

In a statement, Precourt Sports Sports Ventures, owner of the Columbus Crew, said with the right site, they remain committed to privately funding construction of a soccer-specific facility.

The city manager is expected to bring an initial report and recommendations to Council by Dec. 7.

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