Austin council votes to build soccer stadium, also to not build soccer stadium

After a marathon public hearing that saw nearly 100 people testify, the Austin city council voted at 3:50 a.m. last night on dueling proposals for whether to negotiate exclusively with Columbus Crew owner Anthony Precourt on using McKalla Place land for a soccer stadium, or open it up to competing bids. And the result was … “both“?!?

I think the best way to describe this is “unexpected,” if you didn’t already get that from the interrobang up above. It’s only been four hours since the vote, and apparently everyone in the news media and on Twitter was too sleep-deprived to write down who voted how, but that’s going to be key in analyzing what’s likely to happen in August.

For now, it seems like the council has dealt with Precourt’s June 30 deadline by honoring the letter of it while ignoring the actual commitment part, which would be a totally reasonable response. Can’t wait to see if Precourt issues one of his rare tweets to respond to the vote, and if so if he’s able to use up all 280 characters.

Austin council split going into June 28 vote on whether to open up bids on proposed Crew soccer stadium land

It looks like the soccer stadium vote at the final Austin city council meeting of the session on June 28 will come down to whether to open negotiations exclusively with Columbus Crew owner Anthony Precourt’s group or to put the McKalla Place land up for open bid:

Item 64 on the agenda is to approve a resolution that would direct the city manager to begin negotiating with Precourt Sports Ventures for a Major League Soccer stadium at McKalla Place in North Austin.

Item 60 is for a resolution that would direct the city manager to solicit development plans, including those for mixed-use developments, for McKalla Place.

The soccer-only plan is backed by Mayor Steve Adler and councilmembers Kathie Tovo, Sabino “Pio” Renteria, and Delia Garza; the open-bid plan is backed by councilmembers Leslie Pool, Alison Alter, Ora Houston, and Ellen Troxclair. That leaves three swing votes: Greg Casar, Ann Kitchen, and Jimmy Flannigan.

If you’re trying to handicap those swing votes, here’s their record so far on the Crew stadium debate:

So if we count Kitchen as leaning against the soccer-only deal, and Flannigan as leaning for, it looks like we could be headed for a very, very busy week of lobbying calls to Greg Casar. He might want to put in a call to Miami to talk to Michelle Spence-Jones for tips on haggling.

*CORRECTION: McKalla Place is indeed city-owned, but Kitchen was reportedly (see comments) opposed only to using city owned parkland for a stadium, not any city-owned land. So if Kitchen is indeed okay with the MLS-only plan, then maybe Casar’s phone won’t be ringing quite so much off the hook this week.

Friday roundup: Kraft tries to use World Cup to get new stadium, Roger Noll says Austin MLS subsidies are indeed subsidies, NC mulls new tax breaks for Panthers

Posting this while watching the first World Cup match at the crazy stadium with the seats outside the stadium. (I haven’t honestly even noticed who the teams are yet, I’m just watching the architecture.) Anyhoo:

Another Austin councilmember thinks Crew stadium proposal is a load of poop

The Austin city council held its first official discussion of a proposed MLS soccer stadium to host the relocated Columbus Crew yesterday, and apparently Leslie Pool isn’t the only councilmember who went into it having done her reading. Just check this out:

Council Member Alison Alter, who has aligned with Pool in the debate, cited an economic study by Stanford professor Roger Noll critical of most stadium deals cities strike with major league sports owners.

“Austin is wonderful, but we don’t defy the laws of economics,” Alter said. “According to this proposal, we’re giving away our land for free. I have an issue with that.”

Elected officials namechecking Roger Noll without prompting! Maybe we really are in the brave new world predicted by, uh, Roger Noll!

The council is set to meet again on Thursday, but soccer isn’t on the agenda, meaning the decision on whether to give Crew owner Anthony Precourt free land and a bunch of infrastructure money is likely to come down to one final winner-take-all debate on June 28 — though the opposition proposal is likely to be less “don’t let the door hit you on the way out” and more “open up the site for competitive bidding so we can see if we get any better offers.” Aside from Pool and Alter being opposed, and both Mayor Steve Adler and Mayor Pro Tem (vice-mayor, basically) Kathie Tovo being in favor, most councilfolk didn’t have much definitive to say yesterday other than this thing is 189 pages, we need to read it more carefully. Good thing they’re going to have two whole meetings to discuss it, because that sure is democracy!

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.

Poll of Austin voters finds they want soccer stadium to pay property taxes and rent and share revenue; poll of Crew owner finds he don’t wanna pay none of that

With Columbus Crew owner Anthony Precourt having set a June 30 deadline for the city of Austin to approve a stadium deal so he can relocate his soccer team — you’d think that a guy who has his heart set on moving to one particular city wouldn’t be in a position to set ultimatums, but as we’ve seen, arbitrary deadlines are an integral part of the stadium game — things are starting to heat up in the stadium-proposal-mulling department:

  • A report released by the city of Austin on Friday has ruled that Precourt’s preferred location at McKalla Place is “a suitable site for a Major League Soccer stadium,” while also evaluating how it would work for a mixed-use development that would include affordable housing — which came down to we don’t have time to fully study this, but we could if you want. It also estimated that preparing infrastructure for the site would cost about $16 million for soccer (vs. $30 million for the housing plan), noting that “typically the City would request the developer to pay for these costs but the sharing of those costs can be negotiated through a public-private partnership.”
  • An accompanying economic impact study by Brailsford & Dunlavey found that the stadium would provide a net present value of $16.8 million in new tax revenues over its lifetime, assuming that 50% of soccer ticket buyers were from within Austin, 40% traveled in just for the game from outside Austin, and 10% were visitors who stayed overnight — numbers that B&D apparently made up out of whole cloth, or at least if there’s a reason behind them, it’s not in their report. Also not in the report: any analysis of the economic impact of an alternative use of the land, such as for a mixed-use development.
  • Also on Friday, Precourt issued the latest iteration of his stadium proposal, which is heavy on photos featuring soccer boots and fans being bathed in confetti, but if you dig way down to page 155 includes the detail that Precourt would pay to build the stadium and would then donate it to the city, which sounds generous except when you consider that then Precourt would get out of paying property taxes on the land. Precourt would pay only $1 a year rent over the course of a 20-year lease, and would collect “all naming rights, sponsorship, and advertising revenue within the Stadium Site,” though at lest he would also be responsible for “all capital repairs, replacements, and improvements” to the stadium over the course of the lease.
  • An online survey of 600 likely Austin voters found that 43% think Precourt should purchase private land, and only 19% think he should use public land; 83% think the city should charge fair market value for any public land used; 87% think Precourt should have to pay property taxes; 84% think the city should get some revenue from stadium events; and 83% think Precourt should pay for infrastructure costs of a new stadium. In other words, likely Austin voters overwhelmingly oppose pretty much everything about this deal.

The Austin city council has two work sessions and two public meetings scheduled in June before Precourt’s self-imposed deadline; they clearly have their work cut out for them.

Friday roundup: Austin MLS vote, Rays demand $650m in subsidies, Islanders renderings, more!

I’m busy trying to figure out whether Congress is really going to rewrite the tax code to give a couple of trillion dollars to rich people or will melt down at the last second like it did with healthcare repeal, so this’ll be in superbrief mode this morning: