Renteria urges Austin council to remain open to parkland for MLS venue

The Austin City Council member whose district includes Roy G. Guerrero Colorado River Park said Wednesday he wants that piece of scenic parkland and others to remain under consideration for a possible Major League Soccer stadium.

Sabino “Pio” Renteria of District 3 countered rising pressure to eliminate parkland sites identified by the city staff as potential sites for an MLS venue, telling the American-Statesman the final say should rest with the public, not council members.

“I would allow the voters of Austin to make the decision. Let them decide what locations they would support,” Renteria said. “That would be the most democratic way.

“Why shouldn’t we see how the entire community feels? A lot of people have their own opinions, but sometimes the people with the loudest voice get heard and all the others never get heard.”

Council Member Ann Kitchen, whose District 5 includes Butler Shores Metropolitan Park, posted a resolution Wednesday for consideration at the council’s Feb. 15 meeting. It called for removing city parkland from consideration as a possible home for the Columbus Crew SC, whose ownership desires to move the franchise to Austin. Council Members Alison Alter, Jimmy Flannigan and Leslie Pool co-sponsored the resolution.

Kitchen’s resolution directs the city staff to provide more in-depth analysis and obtain more public input regarding McKalla Place, a non-parkland city-owned site near the Domain.

“I’d like to see pro soccer in our city, but it has to be in the right place,” Kitchen told the Statesman. “Parkland is for the public forever. Protect it; don’t give it away to a private entity.”

Mayor Steve Adler, in Washington for a gathering of the nation’s mayors, said in a statement, “It would be very exciting for Austin to find a viable site because a MLS team can bring together all parts of our community in ways that don’t happen now.

“There are many challenges to using parkland near downtown, and many unanswered questions remain. This unique opportunity for our city should be carefully considered so that the right site can be found.”

Precourt Sports Ventures, the Crew SC’s ownership group, has offered to privately finance a 20,000-seat, $200 million stadium if it finds the right site. MLS prefers downtown venues. McKalla is not considered to be in the urban core, and PSV favors Butler Shores, with Guerrero a likely second choice. Both are waterfront properties with downtown views.

Precourt President Dave Greeley issued a statement that read in part, “Polling data tells us the vast majority of Austinites want a Major League Soccer team; we recognize some have reservations about locating a soccer park on parkland.

“We have done comprehensive work on the Butler Shores site, including independent studies on traffic, parking, lights and sound, among others, and that will be complete in the next few weeks. Before any of the sites are removed from consideration, we hope council will allow us the opportunity to demonstrate potential parkland improvements and community impact and benefits.”

PSV told the Statesman the findings will be released in roughly two weeks to the city staff and Butler Shores neighbors before being shared publicly.

If Butler Shores is unpalatable to Austin residents, Renteria said, Guerrero Park could work if a soccer stadium would trigger an economic overhaul and spotlight a property that needs help.

“The trail that runs through Guerrero Park is beautiful, but you cannot use it,” he said. “It has some really heavy erosion from the Colorado River. Both bridges have been washed out. What I see is going to take millions of dollars to repair. I don’t want to take the park off the list because then we wouldn’t have the ability to go into an in-depth discussion on how we can fix that area.”

Removing parkland from consideration could come back to bite the city, Renteria said.

“I understand there are a lot of legitimate concerns over Butler Shores, but I don’t want to throw a blanket over the parkland sites,” he said. “You never know if one day we want to build a smaller youth soccer field in another part of town that might have parkland available.

“Soccer is very popular here in Austin, especially in my district, which has so many minorities. Now we have this great opportunity to do something big for them. I’d let the voters decide.”

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