We have watched with great dismay as a noisy-but-small group of folks sends a signal that Austin does not want soccer. We do not claim to represent the whole city, but we know that the three of us personify the diverse and thriving Austin business community.
We’re here to tell you we are jubilant that Precourt Sports Ventures is considering a move to Austin.
Although businesspeople often fail to speak up loudly enough when we care deeply about issues, we are pleading with our fellow Austinites to let the City Council know that the capital of Texas wants this team.
Let’s take a step back for a minute. Let’s not imagine soccer being here. Let’s imagine instead that we blow this opportunity: We’ll miss out, probably forever, from having a thriving soccer community with opportunities for the best players to move into college- and professional-level teams; we won’t have the free soccer camps PSV plans for underprivileged children; we’ll forego hundreds of millions in spinoff economic benefits from payroll, construction and operations.
All three of us have been active in recruiting first-rate companies to Austin — all of them bringing jobs and superb new energy to town. One of the real hurdles we face when competing against other American cities is showing our full range of quality-of-life offerings. Austin is on the top of that list in so many categories. But what don’t we have?
More and more often, we’re asked what kind of pro sports are available to Austinites. We sheepishly tell them that a great basketball team is 80 miles down the road — and that Texas has two great football teams three hours away in different directions. We always tout the fabulous array of University of Texas sports offerings — but if people are not Longhorns, college teams are not as compelling as are professional ones.
Major League Soccer is the pinnacle of the world’s sport. It’s a sport that attracts the exact kind of demographic we want in our beautiful city: young, vibrant, multicultural, diverse.
You want to know the really good thing? You can get a soccer ticket for as little as $30, making this a sport that is accessible to most people. For what you’d pay to take your family to a soccer game, you might get one single ticket for pro football.
We’ve heard some people claim that “no one” cares about soccer. That’s just patently untrue. This is a sport that is sweeping the country and growing in popularity every year. Teams in Seattle, Portland, Kansas City, Orlando and Atlanta set new attendance records every year. These are also cities against which Austin competes to attract vital new businesses. They have the edge when it comes to pro sports. Guess what: These cities almost all have great college sports, too; collegiate and professional teams are not mutually exclusive.
Precourt Sports Ventures got off to an unnecessarily rocky start when it dutifully went down the road of analyzing a parkland site included on a city-suggested list. After several months of careful study, PSV didn’t even get a chance to make its case. Now, CEO Anthony Precourt says he’s assessing the viability of other sites, both public and private. We need to give him a chance to do this.
We see businesses that take two years to make relocation decisions — yet some in this community seem to think that Precourt can decide virtually overnight to pick up and move.
Austin is a cool city. Austin is a hot city. Austin needs to be a welcoming city.
Can’t we please stop the naysaying and let the many voices supporting soccer be heard? We urge Austin to put out a welcome mat for Precourt and his exciting team.
Farmer is president of Heritage Title. Khataw is president and CEO of Encotech Engineering Consultants. Morse is a partner at Enoch Kever PLLC.