Austin FC officially announced as MLS franchise


It's officially official: Major League Soccer is coming to Austin.

MLS commissioner Don Garber was on hand along with Austin FC investor/operator Antony Precourt, club President Andy Loughnane and Austin May Steve Adler to make an official announcement downtown on Tuesday afternoon.

"We had a vision and we stuck with it and with hard work and perseverance, today demonstrated that for all," Precourt said. "There have been a lot of iterations for soccer in this city. This city deserves this and today we celebrated this."

Precourt said the team plans to begin play at their new stadium at McKalla Place in 2021. Loughnane added that construction on the 20,000-seat stadium is slated to begin this fall with a 18 month build time.

Early in the process, the group identified various potential sites around the city core, including public parks at Butler Shores and Roy G. Guerrero Park in East Austin. Both were eliminated after public pushback.

"You only have one chance to make a first impression, so it gives us three years to launch into an MLS 3.0 world-class soccer stadium," Precourt said. "It will be odd to lunch from the sidelines, but we have to take a step back and build a bigger, more ambitious club."

Even after City Council and PSV agreed on a stadium site contract for McKalla Place in mid-December, there has been some pushback.

Precourt said he and his wife bought a home downtown and plan to be in Austin regularly.

Loughnane said a construction manager hasn't been announced, but expected on in the "near term." He said they will have conversations with neighbors at McKalla work out traffic and construction schedules.

He said they hope to have monthly forums throughout the area beginning in February.

As per the agreement with the City, PSV is required to provide certain community benefits.

Precourt said they will give CapMetro $3.6 million over the first 15 years and they have an agreement with nonprofit developers Foundation Communities to build 130 on-site affordable housing units.

He also said the Austin FC academy will be launched sometime in 2019, which will be completely underwritten by ownership.

Garber was in Columbus last week to officially announce a new ownership group, led by former Columbus team doctor Pete Edwards and Cleveland Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam, as the new investor/operators of the Crew.

"We were faced with a dynamic where we were faced with building a team here, while managing an unresolved situation in Columbus," Garber said. "Everything sort of aligned really well that we were able to close a chapter and then have a whole new beginning in Columbus."

The team in Austin is not an expansion franchise and PSV will not pay an expansion fee for the club. Precourt never sold his MLS rights, he rather transferred them from Columbus to Austin in the single-entity league.

Garber said the club will participate in an expansion draft and could be joined by club No. 28 in 2021 or soon thereafter.

Next steps for the club include hiring more staff, which will increase to more than 100 when he stadium opens, as well as working out stadium and jersey sponsorships and, eventually, selling tickets.

Precourt said, in addition to breaking ground, they will focus on starting the academy and finding a suitable place for the training facility.

"It was collaborative and all points of view were assessed and we came up with the best outcome for the city," Precourt said. "We did it because we believe in the City of Austin. It was worth it to me to go through the pain and agony of the last 18 months to get where we are today."

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