PAC calls foul on Austin’s MLS stadium plan

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Days before the Austin City Council is expected to make a big decision on whether to move forward with a Major League Soccer team at a city-owned lot on the northside of town, a political action committee is blasting out ads against the soccer team.

The group Austin for a Better Future posted a Facebook video Monday with the title “Austin Throws Away $1 Billion!” The video features a man listing other options the city can do besides help build up a soccer team. The group says the city could use the money to build more affordable housing, update city roads and help the homeless.

The video states if the city decides to move forward with the MLS team, it will be at the “expense of our community.” The PAC also bought the domain: BillionDollarGiveaway.com. The “billion” comes from predicted property tax loss over 80 years. 

Bill Worsham filed as treasurer for Austin for a Better Future PAC. In 2014, Worsham unsuccessfully ran for Austin City Council District 10.

“We simply want to shine light on all of the impacts, not just the positives, and give voice to affected residents before this far-reaching proposal is rushed through,” Worsham wrote to KXAN via email. “To date, the potential alternative uses of the affected resources have not even been considered.”

“We call this the Austin process. It’s not always the prettiest thing,” said Mark Littlefield, a lobbyist and consultant for Precourt. 

Littlefield says Precourt would build the stadium but the city would continue ownership of the land and the city doesn’t pay property taxes on its land because it would be used outside of soccer games. 

“That’s something that all of Austin can have and enjoy,” said Littlefield.

On Tuesday morning, Precourt Sports Ventures released a rendering of how it would incorporate affordable housing into the lot if the city were to go that route. Precourt says it would work with Foundation Communities as a partner for the project. The company has already pledged more than $4 million to the non-profit if the deal goes through. 

Weighing All Options

Council Members Leslie Pool (whose District 7 includes the McKalla Place lot), Ora Houston, Alison Alter and Ellen Troxclair have proposed establishing an “open and fair process” on how to develop the city-owned property. 

The four council members have an item on Thursday’s agenda—separate from the item no. 64 which would start negotiations for the MLS stadium—that would direct the city manager to solicit other plans for developing 10414 McKalla Place in addition to the soccer stadium. Two developers have already shown interest in turning the lot into a mixed-used development.

The current proposal with Precourt has the city leasing the lot to the company for $1 a year in exchange for them to build, operate and maintain the stadium. Precourt would be exempt from all property taxes and keep revenue generated by the stadium. According to an economic study, the project will generate fiscal benefits of $11.4 million to the city of Austin.

“I appreciate the work that my colleagues have put into bringing Item 64 forward,” Council Member Pool said in a news release last week. “I really see these two resolutions as complementary. One tells staff to continue the soccer stadium conversation and the other says that while that’s happening, we’re also going to put all of our options on the table. I think they can work well together.”

At the beginning of this month, a city of Austin staff report concluded the 24-acre, city-owned lot would be “suitable” for a MLS stadium. The open-air soccer stadium would have approximately 20,000 seats and around 1,000 parking spaces. The report states limited parking will make it easier to control the traffic around the stadium and encourage “patrons to choose alternative transportation options.”

Thursday’s council meeting will be a busy one since it’s the last one before the council takes a month-long break in July. Any final deal will still have to be approved by the council in August.

Tuesday, there was a lot of commotion at the proposed location with trucks moving debris and the grass had been cut since a few weeks before. 

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