AUSTIN, Texas - Mike Myers Stadium, at the University of Texas, was identified as a possible temporary home for the Columbus Crew, if the team relocates to Austin.
They played on campus in 2015 for an exhibition match. But owner Anthony Precourt, during in a Tuesday morning teleconference, warned fans shouldn't be lining up for tickets just yet.
"To say that a deal as to host games at U.T. Austin is also premature,” said Anthony Precourt.
The team was started by sports icon Lamar Hunt and has been in Columbus for 23 years. it was sold in 2013 to Anthony Precourt, who made his money investing in the energy sector. Precourt pledged stay in Columbus but has now decided the team must move out of its current stadium; which seats a little less than 20,000.
"So we are going through growing pains now, it’s time for us to explore building a world class soccer specific stadium that we can be celebrated successful and sustainable,” said Precourt.
Austin Mayor Steve Adler, while on FOX7's Good Day Austin, confirmed he has spoken to the Columbus ownership.
"I've had a chance to talk to the team and I told them that I did not think and wouldn't support public funding for a stadium and so it’s going to be interesting conversations to have,” said Mayor Adler.
Precourt says he will use private money to build his new stadium. As to why he is considering leaving Columbus, he said he is concerned that the financial model there, just no longer works.
Professional soccer has had mixed results in Austin. Two teams by the name of Aztex have come and gone due to low attendance and stadium issues.
Stands have been packed when pro teams from Mexico have held matches known as Friendlies at the Dell Diamond. Despite an up and down on the field record- Precourt described Austin as an untapped market.
"it has a growing national and international presence, it has a strong multi-cultural foundation, its millennial, it has a robust economy,” said Precourt.
Soccer fans who spoke to FOX 7 expressed cautious optimism about an MLS team coming to town
"I just don't think there is a big soccer following, I guess, here in Austin,” said Eric Fowler.
Izzy Munera said she would buy tickets to the games.
“I would love to, I love watching soccer, I love the game, so it would be nice," Munera said.
Another pro-soccer league has already made a commitment to Austin.
The United Soccer League, which is a division 2 league - announced back in august that a team will start play in 2019. Matches reportedly will be held at the Circuit of the Americas near the amphitheater.
A spokesperson with the USL sent the following statement to FOX7;
“It would be premature for us to comment on today’s news out of Columbus, but we continue to work closely with Bobby Epstein and his team in Austin to bring the excitement of the USL back to the capital of Texas. Professional soccer has a long history in the city, and the planned relaunch of the club in its own soccer-specific stadium at Circuit of the Americas for the 2019 season would provide an exciting opportunity for the league and fans in Austin backed by a strong local ownership group.”
Nicholas Murray Associate Director, Communications
United Soccer League
Officials with the city of San Antonio and Bexar County in February submitted an application to bring an MLS team to the Alamo City. Tuesday Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff in a statement noted that the MLS had earlier said there will not be a franchise in both Austin and San Antonio.
“We want clarification from MLS regarding the status of our expansion application in light of the news today from Columbus,” stated Judge Wolff.
Mayor Nirenberg said the two leaders are currently focused on the USL playoff game Saturday between San Antonio FC and the Tulsa Roughnecks.
“When the MLS figures out what it wants to do, we’re ready to talk,” said Mayor Nirenberg.
Team owner Anthony Precourt will be in Austin on Wednesday. He is expected to face more questions about possible investors from Texas and when he will make a final decision.