Austin City Council passes McKalla Place resolution

City staff will conduct analysis on the site and report back no later than June 1


AUSTIN — The Austin City Council on Thursday passed an updated resolution directing the City Manager to complete a detailed analysis of McKalla Place as a potential site for a Major League Soccer stadium. 

The city-owned, 24-acre tract of land 10 miles north of downtown is the primary stadium site focus of Precourt Sports Ventures and its desire to move Columbus Crew SC to Central Texas before the 2019 MLS season. 

“I remain really enthusiastic about this possibility and I appreciate all my colleagues’ work this week providing amendments,” Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo said. “There are certainly more things I’d like to see in the (community benefits outline). Those things don’t appear in the resolution because it was just an initial analysis of what a relationship would look like.”

The City Manager is directed to report back no later than June 1. 

The updated resolution reaffirms that the Council does not want to consider public parkland for potential use, officially eliminating Butler Shores and Guerrero Park from the original list of five potential stadium sites. 

Supporters of the MLS2ATX movement were encouraged to come to the meeting and voice their support by speaking during the meeting or sign in to a kiosk at city hall to support the move. According to the Council communications department, 61 people checked in that they support the resolution and eight said they opposed it.

“We welcome the scrutiny, we welcome the studies and we welcome all of the analysis of whether or not this makes sense to bring to Austin and put on the McKalla site,” PSV attorney and lobbyist Richard Suttle said. 

The resolution was altered after Council Member Leslie Pool’s request earlier in the week. McKalla Place falls in her district — District 7 — but she was not in attendance at the meeting on Thursday night. 

She suggested her amendments on the council message board on Sunday afternoon, which added specific bullet points to the financial opportunities and challenges and expressed concern of the timeline the report.

“As we get further down the road on this issue, it may seem harder to back away even if the public benefits do not outweigh the public costs,” Pool wrote. “As good stewards of the public trust and assets, we must be willing to say no to a bad deal even while the pressure builds to say yes.”

The resolution also directed the City Manager to explore how the private use of public land could generate funds for the Housing Trust Fund, which are used to support access to affordable housing. 

Tovo said during the dialogue that she does not want to sell the land at McKalla Place and would rather see a long-term lease of the property. She added she expects the Council to have a “long discussion” about community benefits. 

During a work session on Tuesday afternoon, Council Member Alison Alter revealed her correspondence with Stanford professor Roger Knoll, who sent her a detailed letter regarding the economics of building a stadium at McKalla Place. 

Knoll’s letter examined PSV’s “Commitment to the Community,” which was released last week. 

Among other things, it said the letter from PSV did not talk about the financial costs to the City, the opportunity cost to of devoting the site to a soccer stadium and the development plans for the area surrounding the potential site. 

A request to examine all three was added to the resolution and passed on Thursday. 

“As we focus in on a particular property, I look forward to having more detail from Precourt moving into a much more concrete stage of this process,” Alter said. “This is a very valuable property. We need to have real data as we make this decision and it’s not just for our staff to be providing.

“If Precourt wants to come to Austin, they need to do their part in getting us what we need and providing real numbers and stepping up to the plate as we move to this new stage.”

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