MLS is coming to Austin after months of negotiations


AUSTIN (KXAN) — After months of negotiations and postponed votes, the Austin City Council voted 7-4 to move forward with a deal for a Major League Soccer stadium at McKalla Place in north Austin.

The council decided to authorize the negotiation and execution of agreements with Precourt Sports Ventures, with the goal of having the stadium ready for the 2021 season. 

Mayor Steve Adler, Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo and council members Greg Casar, Delia Garza, Jimmy Flannigan, Ann Kitchen and Pio Renteria voted in favor. 

The four council members who voted against the stadium were Leslie Pool, whose district covers the proposed stadium location, Ora Houston, Ellen Troxclair and Alison Alter.

The proposal won over hesitant council members after the owners agreed to pay $3 million to CapMetro for bus service in the area.

Precourt Sports Ventures, which owns the Columbus Crew MLS team and plans to move the team to Austin, said they are “extremely pleased” with the council’s decision to move forward with plans for a privately-funded stadium.

“We have been incredibly honored to work alongside the growing community of volunteers, families, and supporters who have proudly persevered to make this historic vote possible,” the company said.

When asked whether or not the team will start playing in Austin in 2019, Anthony Precourt, owner of Precourt Sports Ventures, told KXAN’s Phil Prazan, “We’ll address that in the very near future.”

If the team does come in 2019, they’ll need a temporary home. Dell Diamond in Round Rock could be an option. The Round Rock Express president says they have had preliminary discussions with Precourt. The University of Texas has Myers Stadium, but a spokesperson for the school says there have not been any discussions about using their facilities. 

The special-called meeting started at 9 a.m. at City Hall. Mayor Steve Adler said last week he didn’t want the meeting to run all day and expected a decision before 11:30 a.m., however, council didn’t vote until 2 p.m. 

Prior to the meeting, a total of 19 backup amendments were added to the discussion. The amendments range from making sure the agreement includes youth programming commitments as well as giving the city the right to approve the annual list of proposed events aside from game days.

Council Member Pool told Precourt after the vote, “I hope that you are a good and faithful partner to this city of Austin, in ways that you were not in Columbus.” Precourt responded that he would be.

Pool told KXAN the day before the vote she was going to suggest scrapping the Precourt term agreement and pitch starting from a scratch on a plan for a pro sports team. 

Troxclair told KOKE FM Wednesday morning that she was open to negotiating with Precourt but didn’t want to execute an agreement with them until litigation in Columbus is finished.

The Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce referred to the deal to secure the Austin region’s first major league sports franchise as a “game changer and major milestone.”

The chamber’s statement continued, “Though it appeared there was much unpredictability around the process to get to this point, Precourt has demonstrated its commitment to partner with the Austin community, and we thank them for their investment of hundreds of millions of dollars in the area.” 

Linda Curtis with Indy Austin, a group that wants to put major decisions up to a public vote, said she was disgusted by the council’s decision. She said, “I wish I had worn my rubber boots to walk through all of the BS.”

Raw video: Leslie Pool speaks to Anthony Precourt after vote

Columbus Responds

Columbus, Ohio Mayor Andrew Ginther said, “Clearly, the decision to move Crew SC to Austin was made long before today’s vote in Texas, with no consideration to the history of the team or integrity of soccer in the U.S.”

The mayor said when MLS and Precourt Sports Ventures indicated they wanted a new downtown sports stadium, the city of Columbus entered into negotiations “in good faith, rallying private investors and public support.”

Ginther said, “MLS and PSV have not operated with the same intentions,” adding that the McKalla Place site is more than 10 miles from the center, “three times the distance between the Columbus Crew’s current stadium and downtown.”

Columbus’ mayor said he will continue to fight to keep the Crew “where it belongs” — in Ohio. 

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