Austin approves final MLS stadium talks, Columbus Crew to move sometime or another probably maybe

Well, that was anticlimactic: After several weeks in which the Austin city council put off a decision on providing more than $100 million in property tax breaks for a new soccer stadium to lure the Columbus Crew to town, with four members in favor, four opposed, and three swing votes, yesterday the swing votes all swung toward “yes” and the measure passed 7-4. The Crew will now relocate to Texas at some point in the next year or two or three, unless the lease talks that were authorized yesterday collapse (unlikely at this stage), or Columbus wins its Modell Law suit to block the team from moving (who knows), or Crew owner Anthony Precourt changes his mind for some reason (also unlikely given how happy his press statement sounded after the vote, but also who knows).

The council also voted on 19 amendments to the stadium bill: I can’t find full coverage of what passed and what didn’t — it’s not helping that there’s no WiFi on this train even though there was supposed to be, clearly they need to tear down the train system and build a new one — but the Austin American-Statesman does report that the one to double the team’s rent to just under $1 million a year was defeated after Mayor Steve Adler warned that this was “the best deal of its kind in the country” and warned that asking for any concessions could kill it. I would beg to differ — Orlando S.C.‘s stadium deal was a fair bit better, for one. The Austin deal isn’t horrible as these things go, but that doesn’t make it reasonable either, but rather in that broad swath of “at least we didn’t get screwed over as bad as some other cities” that makes up most stadium deals. But then, soccer fans are used to celebrating pyrrhic victories.


13 comments on “Austin approves final MLS stadium talks, Columbus Crew to move sometime or another probably maybe

    • Judges work for the politicians , so Columbus will win at the local level. That won’t stop the relocation.

  1. Austin is not spending any money to build this stadium. The stadium is entirely paid for by the team. The cost to the city (if we can call it a cost) is only from the lost property tax revenues that would have been collected if the land had been used for condos or mixed use housing/retail.

    But as some of the council members pointed out yesterday, if a soccer stadium weren’t being built on this land, it would have been used for affordable housing or parkland. And those two uses wouldn’t have generated any property tax at all. So it’s not fair to say that Austin is giving up property tax revenue. This land has been vacant for 25 years, and it was never slated to produce any property tax revenue.

    • Agree ! Not to mention the community benefits package. Also the the city had plans for a transit station a couple blocks away and Precort is only asking to move it closer to the stadium. You will be surprised how many comments will claim Austin is building the stadium in weeks to come.

  2. I’m not sure that “if this stadium were a park it wouldn’t pay tax revenue” is normally the sort of thing that would pass muster with the tax authorities. That’s getting perilously close to “I shouldn’t have to pay any income taxes, because I wouldn’t if I were unemployed.”

    That said, to answer T’s question: If the stadium isn’t built, there are no property taxes to rebate to Precourt, so there’s no “stadium money” in that case.

  3. “…If a soccer stadium weren’t being built on this land, it would have been used for affordable housing or parkland. And those two uses wouldn’t have generated any property tax at all. So it’s not fair to say that Austin is giving up property tax revenue. This land has been vacant for 25 years, and it was never slated to produce any property tax revenue…”

    If this sort of logic is accepted by Austin authorities, I will plan to move there shortly. So long as I build a house (and a new commercial building for my business) on land that is currently municipality owned, I should never ever have to pay property taxes. This will give me a tremendous financial advantage over most of my competitors, who presumably do have to pay both residential and commercial property taxes.

    After all, the land on which I will build has pretty clearly never generated any tax revenue for the city. And who’s to say it ever would have if I hadn’t bought and built on it? They’d probably have used it for parks or schools or a police station or some other parasitic drain on the income of private business owners, right?

  4. Nobody will show up at an Austin MLS match because they’ll be stuck in traffic in one of America’s most transit-poor and worst planned cities.

    • “…one of America’s most transit-poor and worst planned cities.”

      San Jose sends its regards.

      • San Jose is a transit Eden compared to Austin, which isn’t saying much. Being worse than already sub-par would make me commit seppuku if I were a planner in Austin.

        San Jose is at least served by 4 rail systems encompassing 5 lines, soon to be 5 systems encompassing 7 lines, all of which converge on a central hub station. Austin has two lines on 2 separate systems that don’t converge at any point.

        Everything’s bigger in Texas, even the shortsightedness, bordering on abject stupidity.

        • When you are the biggest and the best at everything, you automatically have to have the biggest failures as well.

  5. Here’s a question: why would you want Precourt as an owner of a team in Austin based on how poorly he treated the team in Columbus? Is Austin that desperate for a team? Additionally the MLS commish is on record saying MLS teams need to have local ownership and downtown stadiums. This deal has neither. As a matter of fact the current Crew stadium is more downtown than this deal. Have you ever bothered to ask why an owner who has put little effort to the facilities in the current town they’re in to move to your town or why he put Austin as a town to move the city to when purchasing a team? It was all a scheme from the beginning to avoid the costs of buying an expansion franchise. And do you honestly think PSV has that kind of money to build a stadium? What about PSV makes you think he’ll be an owner you’d want?

    • Good points. I think this is more a case of PSV courting (sorry) Austin more than Austin courting PSV, but still.

      If he was willing to do any of the things he says he’ll do in Columbus he would have fixed any legitimate problems the franchise has. Austin may end up filing this one under “be careful what you wish for”.

      Still, it’s his team/business. He has the right (with the agreement of his partners in MLS) to move it anywhere the league deems acceptable.

      Anyone know what he’s going to do with the stadium he owns in Columbus once the team moves?

  6. Austin traffic on a weekday is horrible with weekends not much better. But the stadium location in North Austin will only make it worse. MOPAC (Hwy 1) and 183 the closet major thoroughfares have poor accessibility to Makalla Place.

    When ever there is a big event, like Formula 1, UT Football, ACL, or South by Southwest traffic is at a standstill.