Council making late-night decisions on November bond and McKalla Place soccer stadium

"Sport can create hope where once there was once despair.  It is more powerful than government in breaking down racial barriers," said Christopher Rios with the Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, quoting the great Nelson Mandela.  

Representatives from Austin-area chambers came together to support Mayor Pro-Tem Kathie Tovo's item 130, directing the City Manager to start negotiating with Precourt Sports Ventures -- a group that wants to move the Columbus Crew to Austin and foot the bill for a $200 million stadium on city-owned land called McKalla Place near the Domain.

"For one, it's not everyday you have a major league team asking a city 'hey can we bring this franchise to your city?  By the way we'll bring the stadium,'" said Hispanic Chamber President and CEO Luis Rodriguez. Rodriguez points out the stadium would be a job-creator.

"In a recent study by Angelou Economics it was estimated the project will generate over 500 annual full-time-equivalent jobs regionally with a 20-year economic impact at $474 million," Rodriguez said.

Tovo's item 130 isn't the only McKalla-place related resolution on the agenda.  The would-be stadium site is in Council Member Leslie Pool's District 7.  Pool's item 60 directs the City Manager to collect any other ideas out there for developing McKalla Place like mixed-use, parkland, affordable housing.

She says it's not a full-on "request for proposal" process so it will follow the same timeline as Tovo's item and won't delay any discussions.

But the question is -- can both resolutions pass and co-exist?  Pool says they can.

But others aren't so sure. "No one wanted to know anything about McKalla for over 20 years and all of a sudden it's the hot item to be a part of," Rodriguez said.

Richard Suttle, attorney for Precourt Sports Ventures just wants to make sure soccer is on the table.

"As long as there's not a delay I'm good with both passages.  I'm mainly concerned, I want 130 to pass and start the conversation about a soccer stadium," Suttle said.

Monica Guzman is adamant about not being against soccer.  She just wants a fair process on land that belongs to Austin taxpayers.  That's why she's supporting only Pool's resolution.

"That does not exclude Precourt.  It merely opens the door to allow others who may be interested in developing the property and may the best team win.  play fair," she said.

In the end, if the stadium idea prevails, Guzman is hoping Precourt Sports Ventures sweetens what they're willing to do to. "I will be happy knowing that property is on the tax rolls, that he is paying for the land or that he is leasing it at or above fair market value.  I will be happy that he is paying for infrastructure," Guzman said.

Council's soccer discussion is expected to happen quote "after dinner" or even "last."

"We're going to probably have a lot of people down here, probably a lot of children.  If we do I hope we'll take that into account," Suttle said.   

As long as Tovo's item passes that means the city will start negotiating with Precourt Sports Ventures and a contract will come back in August.

Also happening late this evening, Council will be discussing and hearing from the public on what that potential $817 million November bond would look like for things like affordable housing, transportation infrastructure, public safety and more.
The ballot language will be discussed in August.