- Chris Bils American-Statesman Coorespondent
Rudy Garza is a businessman who sits on the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce’s executive committee, but he’s also a father and grandfather who has raised his family in the Texas capital.
Friday morning, Garza spoke of both his personal and corporate connections to Austin in endorsing the idea of Major League Soccer coming to the city.
“This is the right thing to do for our families and our kids,” Garza said after an Austin Chamber event designed to urge city leaders to work with Precourt Sports Ventures to transplant Columbus Crew SC here. “We can’t get stuck on just deciding we don’t want this. Let’s talk about the greater good.”
A resolution adopted last week by the executive committee called on city leaders to aid PSV in finding an appropriate site for a stadium. PSV officials have said they would like to have the team transplanted from Ohio before the 2019 MLS season.
The Austin LGBT Chamber of Commerce also voiced its support for the resolution.
Soccer “is the most inclusive sport in the world,” said Edgar Gierbolini, the president and CEO of the LGBT Chamber. “Major League Soccer has embraced its LGBT fans, and we are ready to show the love right back here in Austin.”
Garza read the full resolution to a group of business leaders, soccer fans and media, and he also spoke about the economic benefits that could come with an MLS franchise.
“I’m very impressed with the folks from Precourt,” Garza said. “They’ve done a lot of homework and a lot of research on multiple sites. We’re not part of that process, but we’ve provided feedback, and they’ve heard the frustrations that some folks have. I think they’re taking all of that into consideration. I am convinced that wherever they end up, they will add value to that community.”
PSV President Dave Greeley also spoke briefly to thank the chambers for their support.
“We are confident that a Major League Soccer club will be good for all of Austin, and we are truly grateful to these chambers for recognizing the many benefits that this team could bring to the city and the region,” he said.
The event was interrupted by an activist who blew a whistle to “call a foul” on the proceedings. In brief comments, she expressed concerns about the use of public land for the benefit of the “white business community” before being escorted out of the event.
Also present was retired FIFA referee Stacy Lopez, a League of United Latin American Citizens activist who said he lives near Riverside Drive and Pleasant Valley Road — close to Roy G. Guerrero Colorado River Park, which has become the focus of discussions regarding possible stadium sites.
Wearing an “MLS2ATX” scarf, Lopez said he fully supports professional soccer coming to Austin but said residents in his neighborhood are “110 percent against” placing a stadium at Guerrero Park.
Members of the soccer community, including youth team directors and fans from the MLS in Austin supporters group, also attended the event.
The Austin Chamber’s backing “gives a good boost as far as our movement goes,” said Kollin Brandenburg, a soccer fan who’s affiliated with MLS in Austin.