Finding an MLS stadium site in Austin could get a little harder

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin Parks and Recreation Department board passed a resolution Tuesday night recommending Austin City Council members remove east Austin’s Roy G. Guerrero Park from the list of possible sites for a Major League Soccer stadium.

The move makes finding a spot for the stadium a little more challenging for Precourt Sports Ventures, which 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.

A neighborhood group has rallied and pushed for the park to remain as it is. About 25 of those neighbors showed up with signs at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting.

“The reason that we’ve gotten to this point is because the community engagement wasn’t done,” said Susana Almanza, the Montopolis Neighborhood Association president. “The city and the private developer began a discussion, a discussion between councilman Renteria and the sports league, without coming to talk to the most affected community.”

Almanza and those who joined her at the meeting say the resolution is a step in the right direction.

“It took a lot of organizing and it took rallies. It took the people to say this is a jewel,” Almanza said.

Austin’s Chamber of Commerce spokesperson Drew Scheberle says the stadium would be a great opportunity for development — and he hopes Tuesday night’s meeting doesn’t kill the opportunity. “Everybody’s got an opinion in Austin and this group of folks decided to show it in this way,” he said. “There’s a lot of other folks saying, ‘Please come to Austin’ in different ways.”

Scheberle said the city should keep as many options as possible on the table as potential stadium sites.

“I think it bears [a] further look,” he said after Tuesday night’s meeting. “We just found out this afternoon that the estimate of community benefits is $400 million, so doesn’t it bear a little bit of additional look at whether the juice is worth the squeeze?”

In January, the preferred stadium location — on Butler Shores in south Austin — was removed from consideration after criticism from the neighborhood and some members of City Council. That left Guerrero Park as the only site remaining from the original five options that is within walking distance of downtown.

Along with Guerrero Park, the lot at 10414 McKalla Place — near the intersection of Burnet Road and Braker Lane in north Austin — are the only options currently being explored.

Monday, the Circuit of the Americas announced its plans to bring a professional soccer team to the Austin-area were no longer on hold. “We were always supporting and are very supportive of MLS in Austin,” said Roberto Pinto da Silva Jr., director of private and special events at COTA. “We just can’t wait for [the Crew] to happen… and not have a team in either league.”

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