Attendees arriving for a special-called meeting at Austin City Hall on Wednesday afternoon received a treat from local political action committee IndyAustin.
The group was handing out candy suckers, a reference to the name coined by open government lawyer Bill Aleshire for the Major League Soccer stadium up for discussion: “Sucker Stadium.”
City staffers and their consultants don’t agree with that assertion.
“All around, I don’t know how it could get characterized as favorable to (Precourt Sports Ventures),” Chris Dunlavey, president of Brailsford and Dunlavey, the sports development firm advising the city in negotiations, told the American-Statesman. “I think the city of Austin has negotiated this to as favorable for a city as PSV could stand to do.”
Dunlavey was at City Hall on Wednesday to answer questions for the City Council at a special-called meeting to review a terms sheet for a deal to build a stadium at the city-owned McKalla Place in North Austin.
PSV would like a commitment from the council Aug. 9 to negotiate and execute the deal, paving the way for Columbus Crew SC to move to the Texas capital next spring.
There were still some hangups from the council on Wednesday, particularly on the topic of public transportation. Several council members voiced concerns over the lack of a financial commitment to build a Capital Metro rail station, which was one of the terms they asked to be negotiated in a resolution passed June 29.
Council Member Delia Garza suggested that PSV contribute an extra $3 million to Cap Metro and that a portion of the team’s rent ($2 million of $8.25 million over 20 years) go to the city’s transit authority, as well as a $1 transportation surcharge per match ticket.
According to PSV’s lobbyist, Richard Suttle, further financial incentives might not be possible.
“We started new with the council’s input from the last meeting and negotiated a balanced term sheet,” Suttle said. “To add more financial considerations to it unbalances it. There are lots of things people want, various issues, but we cannot solve them all.”
Council members peppered city staff and its representatives with questions about the terms sheet, particularly on areas they felt were left vague or unclear.
Leslie Pool and Alison Alter in particular voiced concerns about everything from the capital repairs reserve fund to which the city and PSV will each contribute, to the lack of a firm commitment to building 130 affordable housing units onsite.
“It is of deep concern to me that there are so many unresolved details in this document, and yet the expectation was that we would agree to allow it to be executed, and then staff would go off and work out all the side agreements,” Pool said. “I am not willing to go down that road.”
Alter also pointed out that the MLS academy, which makes up $48 million of the nearly $96 million of community benefits, would likely only be for boys.
Others were more measured in their comments.
“Very many of the contracts and the proposals that we see are approved as negotiate and execute from this dais,” said Jimmy Flannigan. “There is nothing weird about that as a process. I think staff has done a pretty good job of getting us to this point.”
If the deal is signed, PSV would be guaranteeing all of the financial requirements in the lease, leaving the city without risk of having to pick up the bill. If PSV were to abandon the project, they would have to pay back the city for any money spent and return the site to construction ready.
“We think there’s every potential that (PSV) can succeed here, but they are definitely taking the risk for the amount of capital they’re committing to finance this thing,” Dunlavey told the Statesman.
“But one they’re willing to take,” added Greg Canally, the city’s chief financial officer.
The city will retain ownership of the land and the stadium, which PSV will privately fund at an estimated cost of $200 million. PSV has also committed to pay for any cost overruns, and site preparation — estimated around $5 million.
The city will have to pick up the bill for insurance policies, standard in city development projects, at an estimated rate of $3 million over the 20 years.
Dunlavey projects the city and Capital Metro will each cash in on sales tax revenues of $500,000 annually.