Austin won’t give public cash to Crew stadium, but public land maybe

Austin officials have started looking for sites for a new stadium if the Columbus Crew relocate as planned/threatened, and while they say they don’t want to spend public money on construction, delivering free land may or may not be another story:

Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo told the Austin Monitor on Sunday she is working with other City Council members to draft a resolution for the Nov. 9 meeting that would ask city staff to complete an inventory of available city-owned parcels, and conduct an analysis of the possible impacts of having a professional soccer team located in Austin. If that resolution passes, the reports would be due in December…

[Crew owner Anthony] Precourt and his business partners have said a piece of land 10 to 15 acres in size located close to downtown or in the urban core is the best scenario for attracting private investment for a new stadium. The going rate for those facilities is between $100 million and $150 million and Mayor Steve Adler and other Council members have said they would not support public financing for an MLS stadium in Austin.

“Some of the land that we look at may be parkland, and if that’s the case then we need to have a long talk about how it’s used,” Tovo said. “The use of parkland is an important consideration because we want to preserve as much public use as possible. When you talk about having a for-profit business involved, there would have to be extremely high public benefit as well.”

I would hope that “extremely high public benefit” would be defined as “enough rent on the city-owned property to allow us to build a new replacement park,” but there’s always the chance that that “possible impacts” part of the study will allow Precourt to point at all the increased economic activity that comes with a pro sports team (note: there is next to no measurably increased economic activity that comes with a pro sports team) to justify a land giveaway. Hopefully we’ll know more in December, including why Austin needs a permanent mayor pro tem when it already has a perfectly operational mayor.


17 comments on “Austin won’t give public cash to Crew stadium, but public land maybe

  1. If you’ve recently been to Austin, 10 to 15 acres of land in or near downtown is next to impossible. Zilker Park is untouchable, Lady Bird Lake area is possible but can’t see the city giving open space for a MLS stadium.

  2. Not sure what you mean by “permanent” mayor pro tem – Austin, like most Texas cities, elects a mayor pro tem from among the councilmembers once a year. Whether it remains one person over multiple terms or if it moves around depends on the dynamics of the council itself, but it’s not a permanent position.

    • In most of the rest of the world, a pro tem mayor would be an interim mayor chosen once the regular mayor unexpectedly leaves office. Not a vice-mayor-in-waiting just in case.

      • So….the US has a President pro tem of the Senate. He’s just a Senate member who presides over the Senate if the Vice President is away. I assume a mayor pro tem is just a member of the city council who can preside over the city council if the mayor is away, serving a role like the speaker of the city council in many cities.

      • It’s an extremely common position in municipal government of all sizes. It may be called Council President or Mayor pro tem or deputy mayor or something else entirely but in almost all mayor-council government there is such a position (NYC has unelected Deputy Mayors appointed by the real Mayor which act as assistant managers, basically, but the first in line of succession is the elected NYC Public Advocate who used to be the electes President of City Council before they changed it).

        Now whether or not the “mayor in waiting” so to speak should be paid more to act as the backup quarterback on the bench is a whole different argument entirely

  3. If Crew ownership wants to move from Columbus to Austin, that would be because Crew ownership perceives that the team would do better in Austin, right? Why should Austin put up a dime or a square foot of land. Austin has done quite well with no major league sports franchises. Maybe that is because it is home to the University of Texas, the 3rd most endowed college in the country. Keep fighting the good fight Austin!

    • That also begs the question of why Crew ownership think Austin would be the ideal spot even in that general area. Gesture at a map of that area and say you’re putting an MLS team there and everybody would assume you were pointing at San Antonio. The Crew owner is on the expansion committee so maybe he has the sway to keep San Antonio from ever getting a team but if the general MLS owners’ consensus is that they’re willing to bypass gigantic markets you have to wonder how unsound the rest of their business thinking is.

      • “…you have to wonder how unsound the rest of their business thinking is.”

        Given their penchant for unbridled expansion, I don’t think there’s a whole lotta wondering going on anymore.

      • https://www.bizjournals.com/columbus/news/2017/10/18/mls-crew-sc-have-been-working-on-austin-relocation.html

        “Crew owner Anthony Precourt, at one point, was a member of Major League Soccer’s expansion selection committee. He left the committee this year.”

        According to this link Precourt isn’t on the expansion committee anymore.

        • They’re not there because the other Texas teams won’t allow it for fear of losing fan base. That’s a far different story than setting up shop in a smaller city like Austin while totally ignoring the bigger, more logical market.

      • I would expect the expansion committee to have all the information about potential markets, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the information is freely shared with all of the owners in a data room.

  4. What people fail to realize is that the San Antonio market stretches from New Braunfels to the north, Corpus Christi to the east and all along the Texas / Mexico boarder. The Spurs have a huge following Mexico. The Mexican soccer team is scheduled to play at the Alamodome on January and 50k plus are expected. This past summer they drew 45k in a friendly vs Curacoa.

    Austin is UT country. The entertainment dollar is split heavy between UT and the multitude of concerts that pour through the city. Formula 1 was just in town and ACL was earlier in the month. MLS would be an after though for many.

  5. MLS and a former San Antonio mayor had a deal in 2006 to bring a team to San Antonio. The local media killed the deal. How times have changed in only ten years. They were going to lower capacity at the Alamo , but the old guys at Clearview felt that would block any chance of an NFL franchise. Ha ha.

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