MLS to Austin: McKalla stadium deal beefed up, but is it enough?


Highlights

Revised term sheet has $1 million annual non-relocation clause

Agreement doesn’t tackle big new asks from 4 Council Members.

Suttle: ‘If council gives certainty, we have chance for MLS in 2019’

The city of Austin and Precourt Sports Ventures released a new term sheet Wednesday night for a potential Major League Soccer stadium at McKalla Place that reflects movement between the two sides and includes a stiff nonrelocation penalty.

Austin City Council will debate the revised agreement Thursday night at its meeting and could take an up-or-down vote on the matter, which has stirred emotions on all sides of the fence.

Columbus Crew SC owner Anthony Precourt aims to move his franchise to Austin if he can make a deal with the city to build a stadium at the North Austin site.

The updated term sheet calls for a $1 million per year penalty for the life of the agreement if Precourt leaves Austin early and removes vague language that critics said didn’t hold PSV accountable in other areas.

“We hardened up the term sheet. There are more concrete terms, more details and additional clarity,” Austin Deputy Chief Financial Officer Greg Canally told the American-Statesman. “We went to PSV wanting more specificity and a strong nonrelocation clause. PSV has accepted those.”

Cannally said the nonrelocation penalty is similar to the one Houston secured for the MLS Dynamo.

David Green, media relations officer for the city, said, “the city does not anticipate any further changes prior to Thursday’s deliberations.”

The original term sheet used a lot of language like “the club will work toward traffic and parking solutions” or “reasonably approve” or “make a good-faith effort” to address an issue. The revised one, for example, says, “the club will identify offsite parking for park-and-ride and a vibrant shuttle process.”

“The community benefits are no longer examples but commitments that will extend for the life of the lease,” Green said.

However, the big-ticket financial items that four Council Members led by Leslie Pool and Alison Alter demanded Tuesday — including more than doubling the rent to $958,720 annually, a $12-13 million Cap Metro Rail station and a $3 ticket surcharge — are not addressed in the revise.

No matter the outcome, Thursday’s meeting figures to carry high drama and extend deep into the night.

Those on each side of the debate are expected to be out in full force at City Hall starting late afternoon and early evening. After public speaking, the council will take up the matter and will not make a decision before dinner.

Any number of scenarios are possible when the 11 members consider possible action. Precourt announced last October the team would explore a potential move from Ohio to Austin.

A yes vote on Item 19 to authorize negotiation and execution of the agreement between the city and Precourt would be a flat-out victory for the MLS owner.

“If the council gives certainty and votes to approve the term sheet negotiated by its staff, and votes to authorize the city manager to negotiate and execute the documents from the term sheet, we have a chance that MLS will be playing here in 2019 in temporary facilities and in 2021 in the new stadium. Anything short of that and everything is in question,” said Austin MLS lobbyist Richard Suttle, who works for PSV.

Item 75, which will be handled behind closed doors in executive session, entails real estate and legal matters relating to an MLS stadium at McKalla.

Then there’s Item 109, with council discussion and possible action related to six plans turned in by five developers, only one by Capella Capital Partners involves an MLS stadium at McKalla.

“We were able to make our presentation (Tuesday), a very strong one for a McKalla District, but the developers have been concerned that we don’t have the chance to directly negotiate with the city as Precourt does,” said Marcus Whitfield of Whitfield & Chen.

Asked to predict Thursday’s outcome, Whitfield said, “I wouldn’t be surprised if this is delayed a bit. Several council members indicated they’re being rushed, and they don’t like it.”

Indeed, the council has mechanisms to slow down the process, such as if they vote yes to negotiate only, but not execute, on the term sheet. That could drag out talks for months. However, PSV and the league have said they want an answer Thursday and might not be willing to endure another delay.

Mayor Steve Adler gave a thumbs up to the previous term sheet, saying Tuesday, “we may be positioned to get one of the best sports deals negotiated anywhere in the country.”

Adler has been leading the charge in working out an agreement with Precourt to bring MLS to Austin. Thursday night he could find out whether at least five colleagues on the council stand with him.



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