As developers make McKalla pitch, 4 council members push new MLS terms


Highlights

PSV: ‘At 1st glance, proposals would make MLS to Austin virtually impossible.’

Pool: ‘Our package makes sure PSV meets their end of the bargain.’

Adler: “We may get one of best such sports deals negotiated anywhere in country.’

Developers took their best shots Tuesday at telling the Austin City Council why their vision for McKalla Place beats anything Anthony Precourt offers.

However, it was a memo sent out by four council members led by Leslie Pool that fanned the flames in the Major League Soccer saga.

Two days before the council is to vote on a possible stadium deal — or to pick one of the developers’ plans — Pool, Alison Alter, Ora Houston and Ellen Troxclair sent a strong message that they don’t like the term sheet brokered between their own city staff and Precourt Sports Ventures to build a MLS stadium at McKalla.

Their set of demands would more than double PSV’s rent and force the Columbus Crew owner to build a new Cap Metro rail station, among other things. Precourt aims to move the team to Austin and privately finance a stadium on the city-owned North Austin property.

“Our package would help put a cap on the cost and risk to taxpayers and make sure PSV is going to meet their end of the bargain,” Pool said. It doesn’t have everything we want, but we think it takes us in the right direction.

“Ultimately, I think our package, like the intriguing alternative proposals we heard about (Tuesday), helps put all our options on the table.”

A PSV spokesman told the American-Statesman his group can’t bend much more financially and justify the numbers.

“We are in the process of reviewing the new proposals,” said Austin MLS lobbyist Richard Suttle. “At first glance it appears the proposals in their entirety would effectively make bringing MLS to Austin virtually impossible.

“We will analyze them in the next 24 hours in an effort to make MLS in Austin a reality. PSV has been negotiating with the city in good faith based on the past few resolutions passed by the council and the latest term sheet agreed upon by both sides.

“These terms are new and not consistent with what we have been negotiating for some time.”

Among the conditions the four council members are asking for:

• Escalating annual rent for the team starting at $958,720. The current term sheet was negotiated to an average of $412,500 annually over an initial 20-year lease.

• Additional escalating payments starting at $958,720 to the Austin Independent School District, Travis County government, Austin Community College and Central Health. In the current proposal, these governmental entities would receive no money in the stadium deal.

• Requiring PSV to pay for a Capital Metro rail station, estimated to cost around $12 million.

• Requiring a final agreement to return to council for approval.

• Adding a $3 per ticket surcharge, with $1 each going toward mobility improvements, the Housing Trust Fund and the General Fund.

The proposed amendments align with the principles that the same four council members detailed in a Statesman op-ed in June.

Kathie Tovo, at one point viewed as an MLS advocate, told the Statesman she hasn’t had a chance to carefully review the new terms from her four colleagues but that she supports at least some of them.

“I do see several that overlap with amendments I intend to propose and relating to issues I have raised,” Tovo said. “These include requiring higher LEED certification, ensuring that youth soccer programs, as well as the academy, are open to girls, and clarifying that community benefits extend throughout the lease, not just for the initial term. There may be others that overlap with my amendment sheet, too.”

Mayor Steve Adler, the driving political force behind the pro-MLS forces, said the negotiations are ongoing.

“We may be positioned to get one of the best, if not the best, such sports deal negotiated anywhere in the country,” Adler told the Statesman. “Austin should be proud we’re driving such a hard bargain.

“It’s helpful that the council members are suggesting terms I’m sure will be considered. We need a deal that actually works, a deal that delivers the community the benefits of Major League Soccer and does so at the least public cost. The city negotiators are working to find that best deal.”

Jimmy Flannigan jabbed at his fellow council members.

“I’m not sure how I will vote Thursday, but this has been one of the most frustrating and mind-blowing experiences that some of my colleagues have put us through,” he said.

Meanwhile, five alternate plans for McKalla Place were presented at Tuesday’s special meeting.

Capella Capital Partners has an “Option A” that places an MLS stadium at Circuit of the Americas and an “Option B” with a stadium at McKalla.

“If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,” Capella’s Scott Moxham said.

Whitfield & Chen and Land Design Studio presented widely varying mixed-use proposals. Whitfield & Chen’s emphasizes creative space and includes a wellness center and a grocery store. Land Design has a higher-density plan that includes a 250-room hotel and 1,500 multi-family units.

Another plan, “Keep McKalla Weird,” is long on green space, the environment, cultural arts and live music.

It is unclear how the council will sort out the developer proposals in advance of Thursday’s regular council meeting.



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