Group Seeks To Stop McKalla Place Soccer Stadium, Hopes To Force A Public Vote

Jan 3, 2019

The City of Austin received a petition Thursday essentially seeking to bring the Major League Soccer stadium deal to a public vote.  

The petition calls for "a public vote on an 'ordinance by initiative [that would require] any sale, lease conveyance, mortgage or alienation of City owned land for a sports facility, sports arena, and/or concert stadium' to be approved by voters before giving a private, for-profit business tax-free use of public land.”

It was delivered to the city clerk's office by a representative of the political action committees Friends of McKalla Place and Fair Play Austin. The groups want to get the petition on the ballot in May.

A big question is whether a public vote on the deal could legally overturn a City Council vote last summer and a signed lease with Precourt Sports Ventures and MLS.

Last month, Precourt and MLS formalized a deal with Austin for an estimated $220-million stadium to be built in North Austin. 

In a press release Thursday, Friends of McKalla Place boasted more than 29,000 voter signatures. A number of them were collected by another PAC - IndyAustin. 

IndyAustin’s Linda Curtis told KUT that her group gathered a lot of signatures, but gave them over to Fair Play Austin to complete the petition.

IndyAustin ran into political trouble in October after using “Pepe the Frog," a cartoon frog used by anti-Semitic and alt-right groups, in a campaign ad against Mayor Steve Adler.

Shortly after, IndyAustin's backers – including Circuit of the Americas Chairman Bobby Epstein – pulled out.  

Fair Play Austin was formed shortly after. According to city campaign documents, its business address is the same as Prophet Capital, where Epstein is the principal. He has contributed roughly $80,000 to his cause.

Epstein also owns a soccer team – the Austin Bold FC of the United Soccer League – and is building a stadium at COTA.

Meanwhile, Austin FC took another step today toward becoming an MLS team, naming Andy Loughnane as its new president of business operations.

Loughnane will oversee things like community engagement, sponsorships, merchandise and stadium operations. He held the same position for the Columbus Crew.

Assuming the stadium moves forward, it is expected to be completed in time for the 2021 MLS season.

Precourt does not yet have a public, formal agreement with MLS for when the Austin team will be added to the league, though both have pledged to resolve that soon.