Activists to city: “Hands off Guerrero Park” for pro soccer stadium

2 p.m. update: More than 60 people protested Saturday against the city’s consideration of Roy G. Guerrero Colorado River Park in East Austin as a possible location for a Major League Soccer stadium.

Neighborhood groups, environmentalists and other activists held signs saying “Protect our parks” and “No public land for private profit developer.” They chanted “Hands off Guerrero Park!” and “All our parks are sacred!”

“We oppose using public land for private profit development,” said Susana Almanza, director of PODER, a nonprofit group that works on environmental and social justice issues. “That’s the message we want to send to (Austin City) Councilman (Sabino “Pio”) Renteria and all the city council: Hands off Guerrero Park.”

Travis County Commissioner Margaret Gómez was one of several speakers.

“It really is a shock to me to think that we are now going to say that we can give some of our parkland away,” Gómez said. “No way. We’re paying taxes for that land, and we want to keep it for families in this community.”

Gómez said if the park were to go to a private company, it would be the “further gentrification of East Austin and Montopolis, and to me, that is absolutely unacceptable.”

Earlier: After a successful effort to remove Austin’s Butler Shores Metropolitan Park from consideration as the possible site of Major League Soccer stadium, community activists are taking a stand against using another parkland site.

Friends of Austin Parkland will gather Saturday at Roy G. Guerrero Colorado River Park at noon to voice their opposition to the use of public parkland for private development. The Facebook event page showed 54 planning to attend and more than 300 interested in going.

Precourt Sports Ventures had once considered Butler Shores its dream stadium site as a potential home for its Ohio-based MLS team, Columbus Crew SC.

Last month, Precourt Sports Ventures winnowed down a list of five potential city-owned stadium sites to Guerrero Park and McKalla Place near the Domain. Guerrero is a public park while McKalla is a privately owned property.

The company decided to nix Butler Shores after its selection evoked public outcry. That’s exactly what activists hope to see happen again with Guerrero Park. The group started an online petition about two months ago to push the Austin City Council to do as much.

“We don’t want to see the balance that we have all worked so hard to create, the balance between nature and humanity, destroyed,” the petition reads.

It will likely be months — possibly late spring or early summer — before the activists get their answer. Officials in a memo Friday delayed a full vetting of any stadium site for an additional three months.

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