Columbus Crew SC investor/operator Anthony Precourt smiled as he approached the dais at Austin City Hall and shook the hand of nearly every council member after getting a major boost in his effort to bring professional sports to Austin.
Austin City Council voted 7-4 in favor of negotiating and executing agreements with Precourt Sports Ventures related to building a soccer-specific stadium at McKalla Place, another hurdle cleared in moving the Columbus Crew SC to Central Texas.
“It’s been a long, emotional process,” Precourt said. “We’re thrilled to move forward. The work starts now and we’re bringing Major League Soccer to Austin, Texas.”
The vote, which was postponed to allow for more review during last week’s regular City Council meeting, clears the way for PSV to begin designing and building a privately-funded, $200 million stadium at the city-owned 24-acre plot in North Austin.
“We wish to express our gratitude to the Austin City Council for passing today’s momentous resolutions,” PSV said in a statement. “We thank council for acknowledging the groundswell of support to help bring MLS to Austin.”
After hours of discussion on the subject at the regularly scheduled meet last Thursday, Council decided to call the special meeting Wednesday to give them extra time to review more than 20 amendments to the original PSV term sheet.
The City released the PSV responses to the term sheet agreements on Tuesday.
Among those things in the proposed amendments, PSV agreed to included having youth soccer clinics for both girls and boys, adding affordable tickets and helping to fund a Capital Metro sites near McKalla.
Those that both sides agreed on were passed at the beginning of the session.
PSV rejected amendments that would put a specific number on the total days the area would be open to the public, allowing the City to retain control of all ancillary developments and contributing more financially to Travis County and Austin ISD.
Council member Leslie Pool, who has vocally opposed the deal for some time, spent the first part of the week in Columbus meeting with Crew fans that have organized a movement to save the team.
She said her staff has done the work and found that PSV will be granted a subsidy of at least $83 million over the first 20 years oft he deal.
“This has been a difficult conversation,” Pool said. “One of the key questions in whether we believe that providing a full property tax exemption, below market rent and other subsidies is worth it to have this team in the near future assuming all their legal troubles work out.”
In Ohio, Attorney General Mike DeWine filed a lawsuit against MLS and PSV aiming to keep the team in Columbus by giving local people a reasonable opportunity to buy the team.
At the regular meeting on Thursday, Councilmember Ora Houston asked whether the legal issue in Ohio would change the discussion in Austin and Suttle said that it wouldn’t have an impact to bring a team and get a stadium site in Texas.
The team is continuing business as usual.
“Precourt Sports Ventures has been clear that identifying and working toward a solution for the sustainability and viability of this Club has not been merely an option or goal, but in fact a necessity to achieve long-term stability and success in Major League Soccer,” the team said in a release. “As we have stated before, normal business operations continue in Columbus for 2018, and Crew SC remains focused on winning an MLS Cup title.”
The first big discussion came on ancillary developments at the site. Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo wanted the city to have complete control in the matter, and the Council approved an amendment that gives them the final say when it comes to ancillary structures.
They then passed another amendment that PSV originally vetoed in the responses that exempts the city from paying for services like police, fire, trash collection and other services during big events.
“It is our obligation to make sure that our city-owed lands are used for the highest value,” Tovo said. “After a lot of discussions, I believe we’ve arrived at use that will bring a lot of value to the City of Austin and to our community members.”
Council member Ellen Troxclair then proposed raising the rent to $958,000, escalating at two percent a year. That was double the figure ($550,000) that PSV proposed in the updated term sheet.
After that, it was abundantly clear where each member stood on the final stadium vote.
“The City is excited about Major League Soccer, and I am too,” Mayor Steve Adler said. “I can’t with until we’re all wearing the same jersey, celebrating the first championship in Austin.”