The Austin City Council still has a lot of questions about a potential soccer stadium at McKalla Place and any answers and action probably won’t come until the end of the month.
City Council discussed the proposal from the City as well as a corresponding proposal from Precourt Sports Ventures at a work session Tuesday to build a stadium at the site near The Domain that would bring Columbus Crew SC to Austin.
“I’m still very optimistic about this possibility and I think it could be a benefit for the City of Austin,” Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo said. “I think we should treat this as we do other types of incentives packages and really evaluate the community benefits carefully and with due diligence.”
There will be no action or discussion on the subject at Thursday’s scheduled City Council meeting. Soccer will most likely be on the agenda for the June 28 meeting, the last one before the Council breaks for the summer.
Council members, both in favor of the stadium and against it, said they have a long list of the questions before making a decision. Many also said they haven’t yet been able to closely examine PSV’s 189-page proposal, which was released June 1.
Chris Dunlavey, President of Brailsford & Dunlavey, began the session by summing up the terms of the deal, which included PSV leasing the land from the City for $1 a year in rent, privately financing a $200 million stadium and surrounding area.
He also recommended the city consider a number of points not addressed in the proposal from PSV, including a non-relocation provision during the course of the lease.
“The notion here is that there should be some mechanism in the lease that prevents the team from defaulting on the lease and moving out of town should it ever desire to do so,” Dunlavey said.
Council Member Leslie Pool, whose district McKalla Place resides in, has been the most outspoken on the Council about the stadium and provided a list of 17 questions before the work session, many having to do with the opportunity and infrastructure costs of the site.
Pool said her staff formed the questions after reviewing PSV’s proposal and memos from the city and believes there are more questions that need to be answered after getting additional information from Brailsford & Dunlavey on Tuesday.
“This conversation isn’t about whether we get a soccer team,” Pool said. “Precourt’s proposal lays out some pretty conniving arguments for why MLS wants to be in Austin and they’ll keep trying to be in Austin as long as there’s an interest. So we don’t have to think of this as our last chance ever. It’s a choice between whether we take the time to get a good deal for the community or rush in and accept a bad one that puts us on the hook.”
Tovo said she didn’t want to “throw a wrench” into the deal, but had a list of things she would like to see.
She said she wants to see an alternative site for affordable housing should the plan go ahead in addition to raising concerns about higher green building ratings, more public use than the PSV proposal lists and branding/advertising at the site.
Tovo added she is uncomfortable that the club could unilaterally decide to purchase the stadium and the land after the lease ends.
All in all, City Council has its concerns and some members are more optimistic about a potential deal than others. Affordable housing is important to them and they need more information from PSV before making a decision.
Council member Alison Alter sited a survey from The University of Chicago Booth School of Business near the end of the meeting that polled economists about the net costs of stadiums and concluded that it was overwhelmingly expensive to taxpayers.
“We can understand why the Crew want to come to Austin,” Alter said. “We can understand why people want to attend and be part of a soccer community. But we have to make some very important fiscal decisions. At the end of the day, if we decide the benefit of having that stadium and that soccer team outweighs the cost, that’s fine. But we need to go in with open eyes.”