While four Austin City Council members put out a release Wednesday detailing plans for an “open and fair process on McKalla Place,” a spokesman for Precourt Sports Ventures said that process could kill plans for a Major League Soccer team in Austin.
Council Members Leslie Pool, Ora Houston, Alison Alter and Ellen Troxclair have co-signed a resolution intended to solicit development plans for the 24-acre city-owned site in North Austin.
PSV, the Anthony Precourt-led ownership group that operates Columbus Crew SC in Ohio, would like to move the franchise in March.
“If they were thinking they were going to do an RFP (request for proposal) on this, it would have been nice to have known that way before the city asked us to look at McKalla for a soccer stadium,” said Richard Suttle, a lobbyist representing PSV and MLS. “If that resolution were to pass, it’s just not consistent with the timing of bringing MLS to Austin.”
Pool pushed back later Wednesday.
“No one is talking about waiting for months,” she told the American-Statesman. “While I prefer a full RFP, I’ve specifically crafted my resolution to address these concerns and direct the manager to put this process on the same timeline as item 64.
“So the timeline stays the same, but we have the benefit of having all our options on the table so everyone can put their best foot forward.”
A second resolution on the agenda for the June 28 council meeting asks for Austin’s city manager to begin exclusive negotiations with PSV for a stadium. Co-sponsors on that resolution are Mayor Steve Adler along with Council Members Kathie Tovo, Sabino “Pio” Renteria and Delia Garza.
Pool, Houston, Alter and Troxclair argue that the city is putting itself at a disadvantage by not considering other options.
“It makes sense that we would want to know what our options are, no matter how Council decides to move forward on this topic,” Pool said in the release. “Knowing all of the opportunities available to us not only helps us make an informed decision, but it puts us in a better negotiating position with all of the participants, as well.”
Pool — in whose District 7 the site lies — said that the two resolutions are not mutually exclusive, and that soliciting proposals would not delay discussions to bring the Crew to Austin.
“That is a minimum of a several-month process,” he said. “That means that site is off the table for an MLS stadium, because we don’t have several months to wait to see if it’ll work for a stadium or not.”
If an agreement is not reached on June 28, or if soliciting other proposals drags on too long, Suttle said MLS may take matters into its own hands. The league has announced two expansion teams since December — Nashville and Cincinnati — that were picked from a list of 12 candidates.
“There’s 10 other cities that would like to have a soccer team,” Suttle said. “They’re willing to put forward a lot of incentives to get one. If we have to wait for months to see if McKalla is going to work or not, then I think we have no other option but to look to other cities. The decision may not be made by Precourt. He wants to be in Austin. The decision may be made for him by the league.”
The MLS league office did not immediately return a request for comment.
Pool has maintained that she will not be rushed into a decision and has been critical of PSV’s proposal. Alter, Houston and Troxclair also would like to see it weighed against other development plans.
“I would love to have a soccer team in Austin,” Alter said in the release. “Nonetheless, the terms of the deal matter. There is a high price involved with giving this land to PSV, and we need an accurate accounting of the opportunity costs to ensure that this decision is not made in a vacuum.”