Austin City Council Votes To Move Forward With Major League Soccer Stadium
The Austin City Council voted to move ahead in negotiations with Major League Soccer and Precourt Sports Ventures to build a 20,000-seat stadium near the Domain.
The 7-4 decision came after about five hours of discussion during a special session Wednesday. Council members worked through several amendments related to parking, transportation, affordable housing and youth soccer programs.
"I can't wait until we are all wearing the same jersey," Mayor Steve Adler said before the vote.
"The soccer team is paying for – and they’re building – a stadium," he said, "and then they’re giving it to us for free and then they’re paying us rent to use it."
In addition to Adler, Council Members Delia Garza, Pio Renteria, Greg Casar, Ann Kitchen, Jimmy Flannigan and Kathie Tovo voted yes. Ellen Troxclair, Ora Houston, Leslie Pool and Allison Alter voted against the deal.
In a statement, Precourt said it was "extremely pleased" the council choose to move forward.
"We wish to express our gratitude to the Austin City Council for passing today’s momentous resolutions. We thank council for acknowledging the groundswell of support to help bring MLS to Austin," it said.
Under the deal, Precourt, which owns the Columbus Crew, would build the stadium on the property and then rent it back from the city.
Mike Rollins, the president and CEO of the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, called the council's decision a "game changer and major milestone."
Precourt announced last fall that it wanted to move the MLS team from Ohio to Austin, citing poor business conditions in Columbus. Precourt initially asked for a stadium site on parkland near Lady Bird Lake, but after pushback from the community and others, it settled on McKalla Place, a 24-acre site in North Austin.
The council's vote on the stadium has created a lot of drama over the last 10 months.
Council Member Pool led a charge against the proposed location, bringing other issues like affordable housing and transportation into the debate. When the deal was set for a vote in July, she asked council to consider alternative proposals for developing the McKalla Place site. Just before the vote Thursday, she added a number of amendments to the terms city staff had negotiated, forcing a vote to be postponed until today.
Today's vote is not the end of the discussion. The city must also decide if the deal will be handed over to staff for final approval or if council will get the final OK. Also unknown is when the stadium contract will be finalized and where the Crew will train and play during the next MLS season.
In addition, the Ohio attorney general and Columbus officials are suing Precourt to stop or slow down the Crew's move. State law requires sports teams that get state money to give six months' notice of an intention to relocate and allow local investors a chance to buy the team.
Austin is the largest U.S. metro region without a top-tier professional sports team.