Public to weigh in on last-minute details of soccer stadium proposal

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin City Council will take the last major step before voting on a new Major League Soccer stadium on Aug. 9. Wednesday morning, there will be a public hearing on the issue.

Late last week, some changes were made when the city released a new term sheet. The MLS team owner, Precourt Sports Ventures, will foot the bill for the stadium and the city will own it.

Instead of just $1/year for renting the city-owned stadium, the team’s owner agrees to pay $550,000 a year, beginning in year 6. 

Precourt Sports Ventures also will build affordable housing and park space and there will be a financial penalty if the team leaves Austin too soon.

Richard Suttle, a lawyer for the team, says they’ll hire Austinites to do the work. 

“This is going to be Austin’s team. It needs to have Austin vendors, Austin folks working there. Austin folks enjoying it. It’s going to be Austin centric,” Suttle said.

The stadium would be built in north Austin at McKalla Place near the Domain.

One item not included on the term sheet is a new Cap Metro rail stop. City council had requested the new $12-million stop to help alleviate traffic concerns. Council member Delia Garza stated in a city memo, “My biggest concerns about the current term sheet, and that is the lack of any clear investment in our public transit system. With a proposal of that only includes 1,000 parking spaces for events at the space, we will most certainly be depending heavily on Cap Metro to get folks to and from the stadium.”

Suttle says Precourt did explore the option of building a station.

“We’ve studied it and looked at it and we’re not sure if the timing is right or if not one site can shoulder the train station but what we have agreed to in the term sheet is design a train site to accommodate a train station for in the future.”

Details of a Texas court decision

Local attorney Bill Aleshire thinks the council should give it to the highest bidder instead of signing a deal with the private company owning the MLS team.

“Let private development go on it, that would be taxable,” Aleshire said.

He’s specifically worried about a recent Texas Supreme Court decision, known as the Boeing decision. It shields parts of contracts from being open to the public if a company says it’ll give away information that will put them at a disadvantage. 

“Business that have contracts with governments have managed to keep those contracts, the terms of those contracts, the payments under those contracts, secret from the public,” Aleshire said.

“I think there are trade secrets that will probably be protected but it’s hard to imagine. Our goal is to have transparency,” said Suttle when asked about how the Boeing decision will impact what is available.

Suttle says the vendors they hire will be open to the public and city of Austin staff will know all the details of the contract they’ll negotiate.

Those talks are now entering the final stretch.

Precourt Sports Ventures wants to play in a temporary stadium next year, then move into the stadium at McKalla Place by 2021.

Comparing other stadiums

We wanted to compare other stadium deals around Major League Soccer. Let’s start with the Houston Dynamo.

The team moved from San Jose and the stadium opened in 2012. The land is owned by a city/county sports authority. The Dynamo paid to build the stadium and pays rent. The city and county agreed to spend on infrastructure.

FC Dallas recently upgraded Toyota Stadium in Frisco. Launched in 2005, the stadium will open a National Soccer Hall of Fame Museum later this year.

The city owns the stadium and the city’s school district agreed to fund the cost of the upgrades. When costs ran over, the team agreed to pay an extra $1 million in rent per year until the costs are paid off.

Orlando City Stadium is one of the newest stadiums, opening last year.

The soccer club agreed to pay the city for the land. The team also pays property taxes. The stadium was built with private financing. However, the contract with the city only committed to playing games in the stadium for a decade, or until the mortgage is paid.

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