Austin councilmember says Crew stadium “massive giveaway,” team owner acting like “used-car salesman”

With the official debate over an Austin MLS stadium to lure the relocated Columbus Crew about to kick off, it’s only one city council member who has publicly come out to say it would be a bad deal — but that one has done so in no uncertain terms:

After a detailed review with her staff, [Leslie Pool] said, the plan “doesn’t pencil out.”

“It looks like a massive giveaway,” Pool said. “Precourt Sports Ventures, they don’t want to pay property taxes but they want the city to cover most of the cost for them without any revenue to pay for it, which we could get from the property taxes.”

That’s not exactly how I’d put it — the city wouldn’t be covering “most of the cost,” though it would definitely be forgoing both property taxes and any share of stadium revenue, both of which are things the people of Austin really think the city should be getting. But Pool did go on to say that the Crew owners “want all the benefit from it — the gate fees, the merchandise, concessions, advertising, you name it — and they don’t want to pay property taxes and [want to] keep all the revenue,” which is dead on, so I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt for misspeaking in the “most of the cost thing.

Team president Dave Greeley immediately responded with a backhanded-placating statement that said while the owners “respect all of the process” and would understand if Pool wants to put the proposed stadium property up for open bidding, “the reality is that there is time sensitivity attached to this,” and maybe there could at least be a memorandum of understanding by the end of June to, you know, create some momentum that would be too hard to undo even if another bidder came in with a better offer? (Greeley didn’t directly say the “creating momentum” thing, but you know he was thinking it.) To which Pool responded:

“That’s a time-honored approach for a used-car salesman. ‘This car isn’t going to be here at this price tomorrow.’ I’m constitutionally reluctant to be pushed like that. … That’s not how a governmental entity should be making policy or decisions for the taxpayers.”

I’d offer to send Councilmember Pool a copy of Field of Schemes, but I feel like she’s already read it.

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11 comments on “Austin councilmember says Crew stadium “massive giveaway,” team owner acting like “used-car salesman”

  1. Let Austin prove themselves in the way that Sacramento has over the last 5 years before “letting them in”. Leave the Crew in Columbus where they belong. I’m sure MLS and it’s owners are loving the publicity of all of this thinking it shows the American public that MLS is no longer small potatoes. I hope MLS doesn’t forget about it’s fans, not the ones that audio stream games, but the ones that out their butts in the seats.

  2. I think it important to point out that this is not “two communities” fighting tooth and nail over who “gets” an MLS club. This is an MLS owner who does not want to be in his present host community and who has already specified one and only one community that he wishes to move his team to.

    He has precisely no leverage in this beyond “hey, I gotta MLS team here, it would be a shame if anything should happen to it”. To use the (very apt) used car salesman analogy, PSV here has walked onto the lot, pointed to the candy apple red car of it’s dreams and said in a loud voice “we are buying that car no matter what”.

    Austin is in the best possible negotiating position here, and will never have this kind of power again if PSV does set up shop in it’s community. They have absolutely nothing to lose by driving a hard bargain, and they should be encouraged by the fact that Columbus government does not exactly seem heartbroken over Precourt taking his team elsewhere.

    Sell him the land at FMV, make him pay property taxes. And let him build his own stadium if he wants to own an Austin MLS team.

    1. Where do you get that the Columbus government isn’t heart broken over home taking the team? There is a lawsuit trying to stop it brought by the state, and city. Maybe you didn’t know about that, but a little research would have told you that your comment was factually inaccurate.

      1. Sure there’s a lawsuit…based on a rather constitutionally iffy law. It isn’t like they are really looking at spending real money. Almost like they noticed they have Ohio State in town.

      2. Anthony:

        It’s a lawsuit intended to force PSV into some sort of settlement (the argument about ‘requiring’ the owner to try to sell locally is a red herring as it does not require a sale at FMV). Columbus city gov’t has not made any significant effort to keep the Crew (the owner has made unreasonable demands and the city has, rightly, not met them).

        This is not a criticism of the Columbus Gov’t. It’s a good thing they haven’t broken the bank for the Crew (as they have foolishly done for the hockey team).

        My point is that neither Austin nor Columbus considers the team a vital entertainment asset – which is as it should be.

  3. I think she’s referring to the fact that although PSV is paying for the stadium itself, he’s leaving the city to pay for any and all upgrades to the roads/easements, moving the light rail station, etc etc…so she’s not wrong.

  4. I’ll say this again….I HATE MLS! It is a joke league with joke owners and I’ll never watch again. They will not notice since no one watches anyway. I can handle an inferior product but I can’t handle shady. They want to be the NFL so badly and are not even close.

  5. In other arena news, Goldwater Institute takes Phoenix to court over Phoenix Suns arena records

  6. Interesting…

    Billionaire GoDaddy Founder Bob Parsons said he isn’t worried about whether the Coyotes stay at Gila River Arena.

    “We went into this deal with eyes open that they may be there, they may not,” Parsons said. “Of course, I would just assume that they’re there, but a lot happens at the Coyotes stadium that is independent of the Coyotes.”

    Concerts and other events at the arena and stadium are lucrative to Westgate and the businesses operating in there, Parsons said.

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