Two days before the City Council takes a pair of critical votes toward the future of Major League Soccer in Austin, Mayor Steve Adler said he is optimistic a deal can be made to build a stadium at McKalla Place.
“We have to assess the risk factor and try to take as much uncertainty out of it as possible, but I still believe MLS is the best use for this site,” Adler told the American-Statesman on Tuesday. “I think we can find a way forward.”
The owners of Columbus Crew SC, with the blessings of the MLS league office, aim to move the team here and privately finance a $200 million stadium at the city-owned North Austin property in exchange for use of the land.
Austin city council members made it clear in a work session they want better terms than Precourt Sports Ventures’ initial offer. PSV has indicated there is room for negotiation.
“What we’re trying to do is make sure we’re not giving away the farm. Because in 10 years, we could be Columbus,” Ora Houston said.
At Thursday’s Austin City Council meeting, members will vote on two resolutions, one to analyze the PSV proposal and begin negotiations for a stadium and the other to create a bidding process for McKalla Place that includes developers and anyone else interested in the site. Two developers already have presented plans and one has made an offer.
A bidding process could muddy the waters and stretch the timeline for the MLS ownership group that says it needs an agreement this summer to move the team here by the end of the year. Council Member Leslie Pool, whose district includes McKalla Place, said the two resolutions are complementary.
Pool has backed off a full request-for-proposal process that typically takes months and supports a compromise where all interested parties submit their bids perhaps as early as the next council meeting Aug. 9.
“We need to have all options on the table,” she said. “I think this puts us in the best negotiating position. If one party thinks they have a clear field, it’s a weaker negotiating position than if they knew they had competition.”
PSV attempted to beef up its proposal Tuesday by offering an affordable-housing element at McKalla and boosting parking spaces from 1,000 to 1,300.
Each resolution has four co-sponsors. Of the three uncommitted council members, Jimmy Flannigan made some points favorably received by the soccer crowd, Ann Kitchen indicated she would vote “yes” for both resolutions and Greg Casar did not make any remarks during the one-hour soccer discussion, although he later told the Statesman his office is working on a position statement.
“There are places where you can do affordable housing and not a stadium,” Flannigan said. “We have to appropriately measure the opportunity costs. We are not making a final decision this week. The (PSV) offer is not a best and final offer. It is worth finding out what that final offer is going to look like.”
“I’m interested in taking the next step on a soccer stadium,” Kitchen said. “At the same time we should consider what else may be in front of us.”
Kathie Tovo wants to try to strike a better deal with Precourt and move forward with affordable housing on a different tract.
Council member Delia Garza came out strongly in favor of bringing the MLS team to town.
“I really hope we don’t try to stall this process,” Garza said. “What it really boils down to is do you want soccer or do you not? I believe we have an amazing opportunity to bring a professional sports team to Austin.
“That’s the really cool thing about the Spurs. They bring the poorest of the poor, the richest of the rich. It really unites the (San Antonio) community.”
Adler compared the benefits of a potential soccer park at McKalla to the Long Center.
“I view it as we did with our library or performing arts center, a point of pride, a special asset to the city,” Adler told the Statesman. “These are really good uses of public land. I think a soccer stadium could be the same and pull together people from all parts of Austin.”