AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Q2 Stadium in Austin will operate at 100% capacity when Austin FC plays its first match at the new stadium against the San Jose Earthquakes on June 19.
The 20,500-seat stadium will officially open days earlier, on June 16, when the U.S. women’s team plays Nigeria in a friendly. That’s all according to the Austin-Travis County officials and and Austin FC President Andy Loughnane.
On Monday, Mayor Steve Adler, Travis County Judge Andy Brown and interim public health authority Dr. Mark Escott joined Loughnane to announce updated attendance guidelines. In addition to the first two matches, the group announced all scheduled events will also operate at fully capacity until further notice.
“Austin has been looking forward to the opening of Q2 Stadium since Austin FC launched in 2019. Today’s announcement is representative of a remarkable community-wide commitment to public health, which will now allow supporters the opportunity to safely participate in a series of historic Q2 Stadium events across the month of June and beyond,” said Loughnane. “This is a milestone announcement for our community, our staff, and our players, all of whom will work tirelessly to create a world class experience at Q2 Stadium.”
In recent months, Loughnane has repeatedly insisted that he wants a “large crowd” to cheer on Austin FC at the first home game.
Speaking in the middle of April, he said, “the trajectory inside our city is strong, but let’s see what we’re like in mid to late May.
“We are targeting a large crowd providing that all of the guidelines and safety indicators allow us to have that large crowd,” he said. “But it is our intent to have a large crowd for June 19 at Q2 Stadium.”
Last week, Austin and Travis County moved into Stage 2 of Austin Public Health’s COVID-19 risk-based guidelines – the lowest level reached by the area since the guidelines were established in May 2020.
Stage 2 includes loosened restrictions for people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Meanwhile, Escott, Austin’s top doctor, said Monday that the ability to hold large gatherings like sporting events is due to hard work over the past 15 months — which he said can’t stop now.
“We’ve worked hard to get to this point in the match. We’ve got to continue to roll up our sleeves. We have to continue to take the shot, if we are going to win it,” he said.
Austin FC leaders said they would have doses of the vaccine on-site at games to offer fans who have yet to receive a vaccine, if they want it.
“We still have a final push to reach the imminent goal of herd immunity and ask everyone to get vaccinated before school lets out in June,” Escott said. “We want to thank Q2 Stadium for their efforts in promoting the importance of getting fully vaccinated.”
Team officials said they could also require fans to fill out a COVID-19 survey before entering the stadium — information that would help with contact tracing. Also, they said they would continue to “operate under APH’s updated attendance guidelines until such time that APH further amends.”
When asked about any additional COVID-19 guidance, such as any mask requirements, a spokesperson said they would be making any further announcements sometime in the future.
“It is very extraordinary demand for a pro soccer team — to see what we are seeing for this,” said Zach Anderson, President of Ticket City. “What we are seeing for this soccer team is what you might see for an NBA team or an MLB team.”
Anderson said inaugural seasons for teams generally see high interest levels, but he called the demand they’re seeing so far “extreme.” He also admitted that since last year was slow in the events industry, he’s not surprised to see people ready to enjoy games and concerts again. Plus, he said people had been waiting “for a top-tier pro team for years.”
He went on, “This has been the biggest home opener we’ve seen in MLS since 2018, when the new Los Angeles team came online.”
Anderson explained that Austin FC partnered with a platform called SeatGeek for tickets, and he said there would be limited availability for tickets through other vendors on the “secondary market.”
With high demand, and what he calls a relatively “small” arena, he projects high prices for the first few months of the season.
“20,000 may seem like a lot of seats, but in terms of MLS capacity, it falls in the bottom half,” he said of the stadium. “That opener will be the highest [price] in the season. Then you go to some other games, and it’s about a $200 ticket. Then as you get later in the season, it’s about half that price.”
Before the season opener, the Q2 stadium will host the U.S. Women’s National Soccer team on June 16.
Then, Austin FC will play t6heir opener on June 19th, against the San Jose Earthquakes.
Getting to the games
Attendance guidelines will determine what parking arrangements could look like at Q2 Stadium. There are close to 1,000 parking spot on site. The Domain officials tell KXAN, Austin FC has agreements with several businesses to secure parking spaces for game days.
Austin city transportation officials are nearly done with work on Phase I improvements to Burnet Road and Braker Lane near the stadium. There are new sidewalks and shared-use paths.
Capital Metro is also working to provide several options to hopefully get people out of their cars, into buses and to the stadium. They’ll have several buses dropping off in front of Q2 and they plan to restart Saturday MetroRail service later this month.
Routes include MetroRapid 803 which will operate about every 8 minutes and drop off in front of the stadium. Once the game is over, CapMetro plans to have extra buses ready to go.
Route 3, 383 and 392 will also drop off in front of the stadium. Route 383 specifically connects to two nearby Park & Rides: North Lamar Transit Center and Pavilion Park & Ride. This will allow those who want to attend a place to park their cars before taking the bus to the game.
“This is a big event, people are excited to get out, people are vaccinated, the weather is nice, this is a big opportunity for all of Austin to just come out and have a good time and we want to be able to provide our services to get them there,” Roberto Gonzalez, the transit agency’s service planning department director.
CapMetro’s McKalla Place Rail Station will not be ready until next year but eventually, that will provide game day attendees with another option to get to Q2.
Jack McCauley, the Managing Partner at Petrol Lounge, said his business was located just around the corner from the stadium.
“We are about 3 to 4 minute walk,” he said. “We know we are going to have a lot of vehicular traffic and people parking in our lot.”
He said his business partners were looking into ways to manage the crowds, including charging a small fee for the dozens of spots on their site. They told KXAN they’re thrilled about the team moving in the neighborhood, but they just don’t want the crowds to get out of control and impede business.
“We are operating pretty much 24/7,” McCauley said. “The biggest thing that we have to think about is, ‘What is the impact to our customers?'”