Austin soccer saga swerves into showdown next week


Highlights

PSV’s Suttle: ‘It appears the majority of members want to vote to bring MLS to Austin.’

Pool says of PSV: ‘They haven’t shown me enough yet.’

Mayor trades verbal jabs with some council members.

And so the match goes to penalty kicks.

The Austin City Council will try again next week after stopping short of voting late Thursday to allow the owner of the Columbus Crew to build a privately financed Major League Soccer stadium in North Austin.

Next up: another special council meeting Wednesday morning, when Mayor Steve Adler promises the stadium proposal finally will be resolved with an up-or-down vote.

Crew SC owner Anthony Precourt declared his intention nearly 10 months ago to move his team to Austin next year. Nearly five months ago, the City Council voted unanimously to explore McKalla Place, 24 acres of vacant city land near the Domain shopping center, as a stadium site.

Thursday’s meeting provided good theater, with testy exchanges between council members and vigorous public debate, but no vote.

Precourt’s group came away liking its odds of moving the team to Austin, barring further plot twists.

“It appears the majority of members want to vote to bring MLS to Austin,” said Richard Suttle, who represents Precourt Sports Ventures.

Precourt told the American-Statesman he was “encouraged” but waved off other questions. He said he would be at Wednesday’s meeting, which could clear one of the final roadblocks for the team moving to Austin. He still faces legal issues in Ohio over taking the team out of Columbus.

People on both sides said they expect a close vote.

Council Member Leslie Pool, whose district includes McKalla Place, said the two sides still have big gaps to close.

“They haven’t shown me enough yet, and we’re in the third iteration of this,” Pool said. “This is about fairness. Precourt came to Austin, asked us to give him special treatment that our local businesses just don’t get.

“I think a soccer team could be a benefit to the community, but I don’t think we should give them free land or special treatment. We’ve got a number of local groups lined up with alternative visions for the site that would do a lot more for us.”

At Thursday’s meeting, council members proposed bunches of new amendments to the original term sheet negotiated between city staffers and PSV. “It’s somewhere between 25 and 30, depending on how you break them down,” said David Green, media relations manager for the city of Austin.

Many of the amendments won’t add much to the soccer team’s cost, and Precourt officials indicated to the Statesman that they already have settled some of those.

But some council members also have big-ticket demands, including proposed amendments that would more than double the team’s rent, require PSV to pay at least $3.64 million to Capital Metro for additional transit options for fans attending matches, increase on-site parking from 1,000 to 4,000 and allow the city to add a $3 surcharge to the price of tickets.

“I think a lot of these amendments are poison pills designed to kill the deal,” Adler said.

PHOTOS: MLS supporters gather at Austin City Hall on Aug. 9

PSV and MLS wanted an answer from the city by the end of June. PSV was granted an extension by the league to Aug. 9. Now the negotiation still is up in the air.

Council Member Delia Garza told the Statesman she has seen positive movement from Precourt.

“We’re still not there yet, but we’re getting close,” Garza said. “There has been progress, movement in my issue about Cap Metro and in some other areas, too.”

Council Member Jimmy Flannigan said: “I think that assessment is accurate. I also want to emphasize that we need to resolve this thing Wednesday, not kick the can any further down the road.”

When Adler made a motion that no new amendments be added after Thursday night, Council Members Alison Alter and Kathie Tovo objected.

“A vote tonight would fail. If we work to get this right, maybe it would pass (Wednesday),” Alter said.

Adler responded, “I think a vote tonight would pass.”

PSV’s inability to address gender equity questions involving how much money it will devote to helping girls compared with boys has become a sticking point with several members, including Tovo. On Thursday, PSV and Lonestar Soccer Club announced a partnership designed to address council members’ concerns that girls were being left out of the stadium equation, but the two groups would not disclose financial terms of their agreement.

“Overall, I remain optimistic about the outcome Wednesday, but it really depends on how much the terms of the agreement improve,” Tovo said. “I’m eager to see whether my resolutions and some of my colleagues’ get included.

“I was extremely disappointed to learn the PSV academy was all-male and that they couldn’t tell us anything about their financial arrangement with Lonestar (Academy). How many girls are involved, what kind of support will they get, is it a meaningful partnership and for how long?”

Pool said the all-male academy and PSV’s lack of funding for transportation raise red flags.

“It raises serious questions about whether the deal aligns with our community and city values,” she said.



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