Austin City Council has voted to move forward and bring Major League Soccer to Austin.
After a false start last week, the city council and any soccer supporters who could get off of work packed into city hall Wednesday morning. It was for the final vote on Precourt Sports Ventures’ plan to move the Columbus Crew here and foot the bill for a $200 million stadium on City-owned land near the Domain.
For hours Council worked through amendment after amendment. Much of the disagreement among council members for months has been about the team not paying property taxes.
“This particular land hasn’t been taxed for years, so yes it is appropriate for us to consider what we might be foregoing but it is not appropriate to say we are definitely foregoing taxes,” said Council Member Ann Kitchen.
The team will pay about half a million dollars in rent on the stadium. Council Member Ellen Troxclair brought an amendment forward to increase that rent but it failed.
Council Member Leslie Pool, who has consistently thought the deal was a bad one, weighed the costs versus the benefits.
“What we found is that the difference, the total cost of those intangibles is a net subsidy of $90 million to $175 million over the first 20 years of this deal alone. By my back-of-the-envelope calculations we’ve narrowed that gap by about $7 million through our discussions today and I do want to recognize that,” Pool said.
Council discussed everything from using local vendors to naming rights of the stadium. In the end, council supported the deal in a 7 to 4 vote.
“The city is excited about Major League Soccer, I am too. I can’t wait until we are all wearing the same jersey celebrating the first championship in Austin,” said Mayor Adler.
Linda Curtis with political action committee Indy Austin is planning a petition drive to get a public vote on soccer.
“They just dug a big hole for themselves, yes and Austin is going to need to do some kind of petition. I wish I had worn my rubber boots to have to walk through all the B.S. we just had to listen to and walk through,” Curtis says.
Columbus Crew owner Anthony Precourt gave a very brief statement to the press thanking the mayor, council and the supporters.
“It’s been a long emotional process. We’re thrilled to move forward, the work starts now and we’re bringing Major League Soccer to Austin, Texas so thank you all,” Precourt said.
Austin Chamber of Commerce CEO Mike Rollins issued this statement saying in part:
“Though it appeared there was much unpredictability around the process to get to this point, Precourt has demonstrated its commitment to partner with the Austin community, and we thank them for their investment of hundreds of millions of dollars in the area. Thanks also to the multitudes of engaged supporters who demonstrated their passion for soccer.”
Precourt was mum about the next steps in this process — presumably the team is still wanting to play in Austin in a temporary spot next spring. Another question, what will the team’s name be? The color scheme? The stadium is expected to be done in 2021.