Thursday was gearing up to be the beginning of the end of the lengthy saga involving Precourt Sports Ventures and the City of Austin regarding moving Columbus Crew SC to Texas.
Instead, the drama goes on.
Austin City Council delayed any vote on a potential stadium at McKalla Place until Wednesday, spending more than four hours hearing public comment, discussing and asking questions to PSV officials and City Staff.
“We don't have very many events in this city that bring everybody together, that bring people of every walk of life together,” Mayor Steve Adler said. “That's a huge thing, a huge value for a city in desperate need of something like this. Not everything has to solve all of our problems.”
PSV released an updated term sheet to City Council the day before the regularly scheduled meeting and various council members proposed more than 20 amendments. To give them more time to review everything, the special meeting was called.
“Some of the things that have been proposed are clearly poison pills,” Adler said. “They’re amendments that, when you look at them, make the deal die. Some of them clearly are intended to not let it pass.”
Adler said he expects a final vote on Wednesday.
“We had to get an extension from MLS in hopes of getting an answer tonight,” PSV lobbyist Richard Suttle said. “If the Council wants to take additional time to look at these amendments and come back Wednesday, that’s the Council’s prerogative. We’re going to answer to the league (Friday).”
The amendments, proposed by Council Members Leslie Pool, Ellen Troxclair, Alison Alter, Delia Garza, Greg Casar and Mayor Pro Tem Katie Tovo, include adjustments to the community benefits package, affordable tickets, stadium rent, parking and Capital Metro among other things.
“We respect the City’s desire to take more time to consider this important project, and we will continue to work with them over the coming days. We wish to extend our sincere thanks to City Council and City staff for their efforts as we collectively work toward a decision on August 15,” PSV said in a released statement.
“This step would not have been possible without the tireless efforts of Austin soccer supporters, Central Texas soccer clubs and their families, local businesses and chambers of commerce, and the countless volunteers who have worked to bring MLS to the Austin community.”
One of the biggest points of contention between PSV and Council has been making sure the youth academy has opportunities for both boys and girls. One of the community benefits in the original PSV term sheet had a development academy for only boys, which was valued at $36 million over 20 years.
Buck Baccus, president of Lonestar Soccer Club, said the group has a binding written agreement with PSV to support both the boys and girls youth programs.
Alter asked Suttle how much of the value, which was listed as a community benefit, was being devoted to girls. The testy back-and-forth concluded with Suttle telling Alter to take it off the community benefits package.
He added that the figures of the agreement between PSV and Lonestar SC would not be publicly divulged.
“We blundered when we put the MLS-required academy as a community benefit,” Suttle said. “If you take that out, we still have tens of millions of dollars for boys and girls programs. Except for the MLS-mandated academy, we don’t delineate between boys and girls.”
Things even got contentious in the audience during the meeting. At one point, a speaker approached Suttle and shouted an expletive at him and then got in a heated argument with a soccer supporter in the entry.
Since the last City Council meeting earlier this summer, the group listened to proposals from other potential developers of the site, six of which were submitted.
“This process was flawed from the get-go,” real estate developer Marcus Whitfield said during public comment. “We need affordable housing and wellness. There are things in this community that were established by the Imagine Austin plan.”
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.
Council members 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.
“If PSV thought what was going on in Ohio would affect what we’re doing here, we wouldn’t put you through this,” he said. “This has to be the first thing that happens that would potentially make that legal situation go away.”