The second-chance developmental Spring League still is destined for Austin, but it won’t be headed to Circuit of the Americas as first announced late last year.
Instead, league organizers are moving the league to posh Kelly Reeves Athletic Complex, the home football stadium for Round Rock ISD schools, in Northwest Austin.
Brian Woods, the founder and CEO of the Spring League, confirmed the move Friday to the American-Statesman.
“My primary concern is the safety of our players; we need an adequate playing surface, locker facilities, showers and more. It goes without saying that COTA is a great venue. However, Kelly Reeves Stadium is better equipped to host the Spring League in 2018,” Woods said.
Circuit of the Americas officials said in a statement that “after failing to receive an executed contract or payment, COTA notified the Spring League to find another location for their scrimmages.”
The league features about 150 players with the goal of making the NFL or even the CFL. Players begin reporting March 28.
Johnny Manziel, the former Texas A&M star and 2012 Heisman Trophy winner, has confirmed he’ll be playing in the league. He was a first-round NFL pick in 2014 but hasn’t played in the NFL since the end of the 2015 season.
The goal for players like Manziel is another chance at pro football.
The first Spring League was held last year in West Virginia. Representatives of 22 NFL and CFL teams were on hand to scout the players as they practiced, scrimmaged and competed in games. More than a dozen players signed free agent contracts, including former Texas quarterback David Ash (Carolina Panthers) and receiver Daje Johnson (Ottawa Redblacks).
The initial plan was to have the practices and games at Circuit of the Americas, which typically hosts motorsports events like Formula One. However, Circuit of the Americas also plays host to a soccer academy operated as part of FC Barcelona. There is a 3,000-seat venue used for the academy.
The Spring League divides the players into four teams. Each team plays three games.
The games are set to be played on April 7 and 14 and will be broadcast by Turner Sports’ new livestreaming service. A year ago, the first league game drew 60,000 viewers on Facebook Live.
The league is expected to release a list of invitees. Woods said there will be former stars from UT, A&M and Big 12 schools included in the league.
Although it’s geared toward younger players, last year’s participants included NFL veterans Greg Hardy, Ahmad Bradshaw, Ben Tate and Anthony Dixon. Until last year, the NFL hadn’t had the luxury of a developmental league in a decade.
The league also will host a football-specific tech forum and will have an internship program with the University of Texas’ Center for Sports Leadership & Innovation.