Potential MLS team’s new training facility could be a ‘community asset’

While Austin city officials consider helping Columbus Crew SC move here, one key selling point could be the construction of a large practice complex to help the city’s soccer infrastructure.

“We intend to build a world-class training facility to house our academy,” Precourt Sports Ventures president Dave Greeley told Austin supporters last week.

On Thursday, the Austin City Council will discuss a resolution to direct staff to begin an analysis of city-owned land for possible relocation of the Major League Soccer team. Crew SC owner Anthony Precourt announced Oct. 16 his intent to explore a move to Austin.

Austin attorney Richard Suttle, a registered lobbyist for MLS in Austin retained by PSV, touted a multi-field complex that area players could enjoy.

“It’s going to be a community benefit in that there will be fields available for use and support facilities for the team that could potentially double as a community asset,” he said. “First-class facilities like these often have a mix of uses spring up around them.”

Suttle, who worked as the project attorney for Circuit of the Americas to get the Formula One track off the ground in 2012, alluded to the possibility of expanding a sports medicine facility to include community use.

“The practice facility could take under-utilized land and turn it into facilities where kids and adults alike can get outside and exercise,” he said.

“I’m just as excited about the practice facility as the stadium because it’ll be far more expansive than the stadium site. It could have a lot of community benefit.”

Greeley has previously stated PSV would seek a piece of land 10 to 15 acres in size for a stadium. Sizes of other MLS teams’ training facilities vary. New York City FC’s covers 17 acres per the team website. Atlanta FC’s complex is built on 33 acres.

Suttle said the two privately funded projects would be located separately.

“The beauty of the practice facility is it could be anywhere in Austin,” he said.

Greeley said East Austin locations would get strong looks for both, pegging the cost of the stadium in the $150 million to $200 million range and the cost of the practice facility at $20 million to $40 million.

“For all the soccer players in Austin, we don’t have enough fields,” said Xavier Hernandez, playing on a recent night at the Northeast Metro Park complex in Pflugerville. “If the MLS team comes here and would share, that would win over a lot of support.”

MLS training facilities not only house the big league squads but their youth academy clubs. Many of the newer ones were built in the $25 million to $50 million range, according to a report by Grant Wahl at SI.com.

For example, expansion team Atlanta United built its new facility for $60 million, and Real Salt Lake opened a $50 million complex this year, per SI.com. Toronto FC, which is playing Columbus in the Eastern Conference finals, has a $25 million facility, according to the report.

Most are club owned, but several MLS teams have partnered with cities or other entities.

Sporting KC, which spreads nine fields over its $22 million complex, is moving into the $80 million National Training and Coaching Development Center. The Vancouver Whitecaps partnered with the Canadian national team and the University of British Columbia on a $32.5 million facility, per SI.com’s report.

In Texas, the Houston Dynamo train at Houston Sports Park, funded and developed by the city with the assistance of the Houston Parks Board. FC Dallas’ academy is adjacent to Toyota Stadium in Frisco.

Columbus set up the first MLS training grounds in 1997 in the suburb of Obetz. The EAS Training Center was completely renovated in 2014 for an unknown sum. The team pushed for a newer, larger facility about a decade ago, but that effort faded with a struggling economy.

Austinite Dave Brett Wasser, of the BigSoccer forum website, said a new complex here could be golden.

“A training facility would be an enormous boost,” he said. “But like the restaurant business, it comes down to location, location, location. We have enough fields in the suburbs. We need an athletic complex like that within the Austin city limits.”

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