The chants were all unique, but the message was clear.
Shouts of "Austin parks are not for sale" and "All our parks are sacred" to "Stadium no, wildlife yes” and “Hands off Guerrero Park” came from a large group of protesters gathered at the entrance to Roy G. Guerrero Metropolitan Park on Saturday afternoon.
The group was targeting the Austin City Council — specifically Sabino Renteria because the park falls in his district — as well as Precourt Sports Ventures, urging them to avoid using public land for a potential MLS stadium.
“This park has a long history,” said Linda Guerrero, an Austin environmental commission member and daughter of the park's namesake. “This is a metropolitan park. The mayor and every council member need to buy into the decision because it belongs to North, South, East and West (Austin).”
She said Guerrero Park’s history and features include cowboy and Indian trails running through it, heard of deer that rely on it for water from the adjacent Colorado River and a protected area for native wildlife and plants.
Guerrero was also adamant that the park has scars from years of use and lacks the necessary funding, adding that since 1983, the park has lost nearly four acres due to erosion.
She said due to erosion and two bridge failures, it needs a $12.5 million fix and said the money will be secured by FEMA and other government grants, but the issue can’t be reconciled for five or six years.
“I’ve played in Austin’s parks my entire life,” Guerrero said. “Our children, our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren deserve open space. This land is not suitable or stable enough to absorb what is being proposed.”
The group continued to grow even after the 12:30 p.m. start time. A few drums, a cowbell and even a vuvuzela joined in with the chanting. The protest ended with a reworded version of “Down By the Riverside”
Some protesters were not against MLS soccer in Austin or building a stadium in the city, they only opposed letting a private company use public parkland for a stadium.
“We’ve been here for a long time and we’ve worked hard to preserve the park and the wildlife,” Vasquez Fields Neighborhood Association representative Pedro Hernandez said. “Someone told me much of this land was unused. I asked, unused by who? We use it and the wildlife uses the land also.”
Both Butler Shores and Guerrero Park host little league and both groups voiced their concerned. South Austin Baseball Little League operates at Butler Shores and was “elated” when the site was pulled.
Montopolis Little League plays its games at Guerrero Park. President Israel Lopez said the city puts simulations on the league, which include maintaining the fields themselves.
On Friday, acting Austin Parks and Recreation Director Kimberly McNeeley released a memo requesting the Austin City Council delay reviewing potential stadium sites past the Feb. 15 meeting.
The update said there will be no new information to review and did not suggest a date as to when the research can be presented to the council.
“Upon consensus between the suggested City of Austin properties and the Precourt Sports Ventures property analysis, City staff will commence with a robust community engagement,” the memo said. “It will be at that time City staff can select an appropriate Council date.”
The memo added that the community engagement required is estimated to take approximately three months.
Last week, City Council Member Ann Kitchen proposed a resolution that would eliminate all public parkland from the list of potential stadium sites and provide a more in-depth analysis of the site at McKalla Place.
PSV announced last Friday that is was removing Butler Shores from the list and Kitchen withdrew the resolution.
The crowd at Guerrero Park on Saturday called for her to stand firm with the motion.
“We’re glad it’s bogged down, but we want to speed it up to someplace outside of our parkland,” said Bill Bunch, executive director of the Save Our Springs Alliance. “If Columbus (PSV) want to be bullies, they can stay in Columbus. Otherwise, we need some leadership from our mayor and council to stop wasting our time and get this facility on private land with private money.”