Austinites To Vote On Whether They Want To Vote On Sports And Entertainment Venues On City Land

Feb 21, 2019

Austinites will be asked in November if they want to vote on whether city land can be used for future stadiums and entertainment sites.

The vote will determine if residents get a say in deals similar to the one the city negotiated last year for a Major League Soccer stadium. It would not stop Precourt Sports Ventures from bringing the Austin FC soccer team to North Austin. 

“When we talk about what this election is about with our constituents and people in the community, we need to make sure that we’re not referring to this as anything that has to do with a soccer stadium at McKalla, because it doesn’t,” Mayor Steve Adler said during a City Council meeting Thursday. “We entered into a lease concerning that property, and the Constitution wouldn’t let us go back and end a lease that already exists, because there’s a prohibition against retroactive laws.”

Stadiums are relatively rare considerations. If passed, the ordinance would more likely affect lease renewals for properties like the Zach Theatre, YMCA facilities, the Millennium Youth Complex and the West Austin Youth Association ballfields.

The ballot question is in response to a petition filed last month by Fair Play Austin, a political action committee. The PAC is backed by Circuit of the Americas Chairman Bobby Epstein, who also owns the United Soccer League team the Austin Bold. It was started in an effort to delay the MLS stadium deal.

Council Member Greg Casar said the move was all about one group starting a soccer team attempting to hurt another group starting a soccer team.

“At best, the whole thing is a frustrating waste of hundreds of thousands of city dollars,” he said. “And at worst, it’s a corporate power play that could come at great expense to Austinites.” 

City staff estimate the election will cost the city $500,000.