Austin Public Health To Allow 100% Capacity When Major League Soccer Stadium Opens Next Month
The first soccer matches at Q2 Stadium will look different from most sporting events in Austin and elsewhere over the last 14 months: As many as 20,500 people will be sitting, standing and cheering right next to each other for the first time since the pandemic started.
Austin Public Health’s Dr. Mark Escott said Monday it’s too early to declare victory over the coronavirus, but he is declaring success.
“And we have to recognize that success,” said Escott, interim health authority for Austin-Travis County. “We have to loosen restrictions to show the community what that commitment to protecting itself has achieved. We can safely do that.”
Mayor Steve Adler said local willingness to follow protocols and get vaccinated have gotten Austin to this point.
“We have greater protections, our mortality rate is lower than other Texas cities,” he said. “And when a community does that, there are rewards. You get back to normalcy more quickly.”
There is another factor allowing the Major League Soccer stadium to open up completely.
“It’s an outdoor stadium,” Escott said, which limits the spread of the virus. “That provides additional protections, as well.”
Escott still recommends masks for those who haven't been vaccinated. He said the Austin area has yet to reach the threshold of 70% fully vaccinated to remove all restrictions.
Travis County Judge Andy Brown emphasized that those who get vaccinated this week could get their second dose in time for the first matches. The U.S. Women's National Team takes on Nigeria in a friendly June 16, and three days later, the Austin FC will play its home opener against the San Jose Earthquakes
Austin FC is pitching in, offering vaccines at home games. Tickets for the first matches go on sale this week.
Also Monday, Capital Metro said it is planning to increase transit frequency on game days and run the MetroRail for two hours after each match ends. The Kramer Station is the closest to Q2 stadium; it's about a 15-minute walk.
Longer term, Cap Metro plans to build a $24 million MetroRail station at Q2. McKalla Station — part of the Project Connect transit plan approved by voters in November — will be on the east side of the stadium between Braker Lane and Rutland Drive.
Q2 Stadium operator Austin Stadco will pay $3 million to Cap Metro over 15 years to help cover some of the cost of building McKalla Station. Austin Stadco will also pay $640,000 for increased bus stop infrastructure around the stadium.
The agreement allows Cap Metro full use of Q2 one day per year without having to pay venue rent and opens the possibility of stadium parking lots being made available to Cap Metro customers on days when there are no events.
KUT's Nathan Bernier contributed to this report.