The owners of the Columbus Crew SC unveiled their plans for a proposed stadium in Austin, Texas, this week. Precourt Sports Ventures expects to pitch the plan to the city within the next two weeks.
Precourt Sports Ventures initially announced its plans to move to Austin if Columbus didn’t build the team a new downtown stadium. MAPFRE Stadium, the Crew’s current location and the first soccer-specific stadium in the country, currently sits next to I-71 next to the Ohio State Fairgrounds.
However, the plans revealed this week showed the location of Precourt’s proposed stadium was not in downtown Austin, but rather “10 miles north of downtown, on the north to northwest side of Austin,” according to Kevin Lyttle, a reporter at the Austin American-Statesman.
The immediate neighborhood is currently considered to be “light industry” with many warehouses, Lyttle says.
“The big catch to all of this is that it’s McKalla Place, which is the name of the property, is about a 15 minute walk — 15 to 20 minute walk — from an area called the Domain, which has really kind of become the hottest area in town for Austin,” Lyttle said. “People keep describing it as a second downtown.”
Crew owner Anthony Precourt’s original location pitches in Austin’s downtown park land – including Butler Shores and Roy G. Guerrero Park – were rejected by the city’s politicians and community activists, Lyttle says.
“Of the non-downtown, non-park land sites, McKalla Place was the most palatable,” Lyttle says.
While Precourt expects to privately finance the stadium, Lyttle says there would still be infrastructure and transportation issues that would affect the city of Austin. Among those include moving a train stop closer to the stadium.
Even so, while “soccer diehards” in Austin believe that Columbus Crew will make the move, Lyttle said there are still many questions that have yet to be answered in order to say for sure.
“For the longest time, I was under 50/50, and I’m somewhere around 60/40 now,” Lyttle says, "after the city decided to go ahead and explore this particular property and Precourt decided it was good enough for him.”
The city of Columbus is working hard to keep the Crew in town. Along with the Ohio Attorney General's office, they've sued Precourt over the proposed move, saying it violates state law.
Last week, a judge granted the city's request to stop the clock while it organizes potential local buyers in an attempt to purchase the franchise. The next step in the lawsuit is for both sides to meet with the judge to determine the team's value and how to structure a sale.