A Major League Soccer team could be on its way to Austin. Columbus Crew owner Anthony Precourt announced this morning that he plans to pursue the move if a deal for a new stadium in downtown Columbus doesn’t pan out.
"It's one of our nation's great cities in terms of culture, as an entertainment capital," he said. "We believe Austin is the most attractive, untapped market for Major League Soccer in the country."
The only thing this city needs for the Crew to move here: a new stadium. And it has to be near downtown. The team has even been scouting locations for a privately financed stadium.
Austin could be just a bargaining chip in negotiations with the City of Columbus, but some here see it as a real possibility.
“The fact that with everything he said publicly this morning and Mr. Precourt traveling to Austin, it seems very real at this point,” said Lance Aldridge, executive director of the Austin Sports Commission, part of the local convention and visitors bureau.
Aldridge said when the team and Austin held initial discussions a few months ago, he was convinced the Crew was just trying to get leverage with the City of Columbus, which is standard-operating procedure in modern-day sports. (Want to pave the way for a new facility? Threaten to move.) But team executive Dave Greeley said the team is not using Austin.
“This is not a leverage game, this is not a bargaining chip,” he said. “This is 100 percent bullishness on Austin, 100 percent embracing the chance to be a community partner in Austin, where we can collaborate with the city, with its residents, and build something very unique and very special that ultimately becomes a community platform for all of Austin.”
Aldridge said he’s not so sure it’s a threat either.
“If he is using us as a stalking horse, he’s doing a great job,” he said. “You know at this point, from the Austin Sports Commission’s point of view, we’re very excited. A Major League Soccer Team is coming town. That’s quite unexpected and we’re excited about it.”
This is the actually the second soccer team within the last few months to announce a potential move to Austin. In August, the second-tier United Soccer League announced it is planning to bring a team to Austin to play at a new 5,000-seat stadium at the Circuit of the Americas racetrack.
This post has been updated.