A long day’s night shaping up for Austin City Council’s MLS votes


Highlights

McKalla Place stadium resolutions face lengthy debate.

Bidding process could run out the clock on Austin’s MLS hopes.

New Tovo, Pool amendments aim for a better deal for the city.

One of the beauties of soccer matches is they move quickly and are over in under two hours.

That will not be the case Thursday when the Austin City Council takes up the hotly debated McKalla Place/soccer topic at its final meeting before a six-week summer break.

The council is expected to go deep into the night to vote on two proposals that could determine the future of Major League Soccer in Austin. The meeting begins at 10 a.m., but soccer is not expected to come up until close to the 8 p.m. slot that owners of Columbus Crew SC intend to start their matches in Austin next year. There are predictions the debate could go on til 2 a.m.

The pro-soccer resolution, if passed, directs the city manager to analyze the Precourt Sports Ventures’ proposal for the city-owned North Austin site and begin negotiations on a privately financed stadium. The resolution was amended by co-sponsor Kathie Tovo to also solicit plans for the development of affordable housing on a different city-owned tract.

Insiders have told the American-Statesman that resolution should pass, probably easily.

The accompanying resolution, which most soccer fans and Precourt officials consider unfriendly but other groups view as fair and equitable, would create a bidding process that squares off PSV with developers and, as Council Member Leslie Pool says, “may the best man win.”

That will be a lengthy debate that could get contentious oh, say, around midnight.

Each resolution has four sponsors, likely leaving Jimmy Flannigan, Ann Kitchen and Greg Casar to hold sway.

Pool, whose district includes McKalla Place, said she hoped the bidding could be done by the Aug. 9 council meeting. PSV is looking at a tight timeline to move the team here by the end of the year, provided litigation is settled in Columbus. They don’t even have a temporary home for 2019.

Richard Suttle, an MLS lobbyist who works for Anthony Precourt, told the Statesman on Wednesday he cannot envision a complicated bidding process like that coming together so quickly. PSV points out the council voted 9-0 in March to explore McKalla Place as a potential MLS home for the Crew without a mention of having to win a bid-off against developers.

PSV officials, who previously said they need an agreement with the city by the end of June, stopped short of saying a “yes” vote to bidding kills the soccer project. But there are rumblings MLS officials won’t wait much longer.

Meanwhile, various Austin chambers of commerce scheduled a 12:30 p.m. pro-soccer rally Thursday at the City Hall. MLS supporters groups are asking fans to show up at 6:30 p.m., closer to the start time of the match, if you will.

Tovo and Pool stuffed their resolutions with extra amendments in the past few days while lawyers, PR firms and community activists made their final pitches.

“I think everybody is going to be amending things from the dais (Thursday),” Pool said.

Tovo’s additions concern getting a better deal from Precourt involving parking, traffic, building standards, a new Metro Rail transit stop, expanded community benefits for low-income families and protecting the city against financial loss.

Pool’s list covers some of the same ground and insists on a new Metro stop, which Cap Metro said would cost $13 million.

“Precourt should pay for a rail station,” she said. “He should include that in his proposal.”

She points to Brandywine Realty Trust paying for a station north of McKalla.

“They came to the table saying, ‘We will build this train station.’ Because I know people can do that, and they can offer it and not fight about it,” Pool said.

PSV has said a new rail stop is a bonus, not a necessity, indicating the group would not fund one itself.

Chris Bils contributed to this report.



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