Council Member Pool talks MLS stadium ‘deal-breaker'

When Precourt Sports Ventures released their detailed proposal to build a 20,000-seat, open air, natural grass stadium on the city-owned McKalla Place, District 7 City Council Member Leslie Pool was far from impressed with what the Columbus Crew owners came up with.

And the soccer park would be in her district.  

“They want to give us a dollar a year for 20 years to use the land,” Pool said.

Precourt Sports Ventures would pay for the soccer park and then give it right back to the city. The team would play there and the city would use it too. According to the nearly 200-page proposal from the team-owners, they’re hoping to be exempt from paying property taxes because it’s city property. PSV President Dave Greeley explained that for us last week.

“Let’s be clear, McKalla Place has sat empty for over 20 years, it’s delivered no taxes, it's delivered no jobs, it's delivered no revenue for the city, it's done nothing. So we have a wonderful valued proposition,” Greeley said.

Council Member Pool says the team owners not paying property taxes on the stadium is a deal-breaker for her.  

“They say they will give it to the city but then the city would be responsible for something that we never agreed that we would build and then that would be a sponge for additional revenues to be spent there and we have golf courses in our city and pools and parks that are not adequately maintained because we don’t have sufficient revenue,” Pool said.

And now there’s competition. A couple of developers have expressed interest in putting a mixed-use development on the McKalla Place property. Pool says that’s not surprising and she’s hoping to open up that RFP process to those who want to build on McKalla. 

She’s bringing an item forward at the June 28th Council meeting that would do that.

“If we level the playing field then let the best man win,” Pool said.

Another factor looming over this issue: the clock. Precourt Sports Ventures says they’re hoping to at least come to some sort of understanding with the city before the end of the month because they really want the Columbus Crew playing at a temporary spot in Austin by next March.  

“Absolutely, the speed element really concerns me and I think it was Darryl Schlesser a couple of decades ago when he was on Council he talked about what’s a ‘boondoggle’ and one of the hallmarks of a boondoggle is the person bringing it to you has a sense of urgency that is manufactured and it is not in the city’s best interest to rush deals like this,” Pool said.

If Council approves the plan, City staff is recommending putting a “non-relocation clause” in the final deal so the team won’t default on the deal and leave town.