City says May vote for 'Friends of McKalla Place' petition is against Austin City Charter

There was much rejoicing from Austin soccer fans last summer when City Council voted to negotiate and execute an agreement that would bring a Major League Soccer stadium to town.

In December, Precourt Sports Ventures announced that deal had been finalized.  

Fans are eagerly anticipating an MLS team in some form called the "Austin FC."

But suddenly -- the folks at City Hall are counting signatures. "If you're asking me if Austin's soccer fans should be worried about this, my answer is 'no not at all,'" said Sports Law Attorney Pete Reid.

Reid is talking about a 29,000-signature petition from a group called "Friends of McKalla Place."  That's the name of the city-owned site near The Domain where the stadium will be built.

According to a press release from the group, they're an "informal, grassroots organization."  They want a May 2019 vote on the stadium deal, saying "The call for a public vote is about government accountability, transparency and ensuring the responsible use of taxpayer dollars and land."

Different groups like "Indy Austin" and "Fair Play Austin" have been gathering the signatures.  Those groups received funding from Bobby Epstein, Chairman of Circuit of the Americas, home to a brand new United Soccer League team. 

When the USL team was announced last summer I asked Epstein about his alleged beef with an Austin MLS team. "I don't think anybody is against MLS.  I think people are cautious about supporting something unproven with large amounts of -- a really large commitment from the taxpayer," he said.  

A representative for Friends of McKalla Place told me via text they believe the soccer deal isn't completely done yet...the talk is "speculative" and the petition would go on the May ballot and affect any deals in motion at the time.

Precourt Sports Ventures attorney Richard Suttle tells FOX 7  "The petition does not impact Austin FC.  The lease is signed and the plan for the stadium has been filed.  We look forward to bringing Major League Soccer to Austin."

Sports law attorney Reid agrees. "I can't see how this is going to affect the deal to bring Major League Soccer to Austin.  If successful this may potentially create new legislation but as far as I am aware this is a done deal to bring Major League Soccer here and any new legislation couldn't be retroactive to change what's been done," Reid said.

The group wants to put the initiative on the ballot in May.

But today the City of Austin tells FOX 7 the City Charter won't allow it -- because it's too close in time to the last citizen-initiated ballot initiative last November.  

So the vote would have to be this November. A "Friends of McKalla Place" representative says that opinion could "trigger another lawsuit against the City."