Austin City Council will vote Thursday night on two resolutions that impact the Columbus Crew’s move to the Texas city.
“One is perceived as a pro-soccer resolution,” says Kevin Lyttle, sports writer for the Austin American-Statesman. “If it’s passed, it directs the city manager to analyze the proposal from the owners of the Columbus Crew and begin negotiations on a stadium.”
The owners, Anthony Precourt and his company Precourt Sports Ventures, first announced their intention to move the team to Austin last fall.
Since then, the city of Columbus and state of Ohio have sued the team using “Modell Law,” a state law that prevents owners from moving sports teams without giving locals a chance to buy them first. Lyttle says that legal question is becoming more prominent in the proceedings.
“Recently, we’re starting to see more lawyers, more inputs from lawyers, some of whom are warning city of Austin, ‘Hey, you better not get too involved in this deal because perhaps you become liable at some point,’ or ‘Does Precourt really have this team to send to Austin?’” he says.
According to KUT, the proposed deal would have Precourt paying for the construction and development of the stadium site, and a revenue-sharing agreement. Precourt would donate the stadium to the city, and maintain it for a $1-per-year lease rate.
The second resolution Austin Council will vote on is considered anti-soccer by many local fans.
“It would create a kind of an open bidding process that would require the owners of the Crew, Precourt Sports Ventures, to go up against any developers out there that are interested in this land or anyone else who want this land for any reason,” Lyttle says.
That could make it tougher for Precourt to get his chosen site, an area known as McKalla Place 10 miles north of downtown. Some of Austin’s city councilmembers have been cool on the idea of a soccer stadium there; one went so far as to call it a “massive giveaway.”
At a recent work session, KUT reports Austin councilmember Ora Houston worried about ending up in the opposite position.
"Because in 10 years, we could be Columbus and they've moved some place else," Houston said.
Earlier this week, the company tried to sweeten the deal.
“They were tweaking it to try to appease some of the people who would rather see this property go to affordable housing, so they’ve added a possible affordable housing element to it,” Lyttle says. “Now, I don’t know how well it will really stand up, because would you want to be living in an apartment complex right next to a soccer stadium with the noise?”
Precourt also upped the parking from 1,000 to 1,300 spaces. But Lyttle isn’t convinced.
“It’s still not going to satisfy a lot of people who think the parking situation isn’t good enough in the Precourt proposal,” he says.
Lyttle says he waffles on how certain the team’s move is. While he had doubts for a while, an off-the-record conversation with the mayor has led him back into the “probably yes” zone.
“The message he got across to me is that he is pretty optimistic now, which would take me back over 50-50, back up to around 60-40,” Lyttle says. “But I still think there’s a lot that can happen to change the equation here, and I don’t think it’s all going to be all decided tonight.”