Dribbling Back and Forth

Pressure mounts over uncertain future of Austin soccer stadium

Pressure mounts over uncertain future of Austin soccer stadium

Austin MLS soccer stadium
Precourt Ventures is putting pressure on Austin City Council to make a decision. Rendering courtesy of Gensler Sports Practice, TBG, and Creative Artists Agency

KVUE — Is Austin getting a soccer team or not?

Precourt Sport Ventures wants to build a stadium near the Domain, at Braker and Burnet. Executives gave the city a proposal last week and the city released an economic development study. So what now?

Precourt Sport Ventures president Dave Greeley said they want to reach an agreement with the city as soon as possible. “It’s now, we’re focused on figuring out a deal here in Austin to bring MLS to ATX,” said Greeley. There aren't any items on the agenda regarding the proposed stadium for the June 14 or June 28 council meetings.

“For us, we’re going to continue to have dialogue with city staff, and council, it is our hope if we’re so fortunate to figure out some sort of understanding with the city by their July break,” said Greeley.

Dan Viallant with CAA ICON — the strategic management consulting firm working for the stadium — said they want to get the green light from the city by July 2018 in order to open the stadium in 2021. He said the stadium design could take nine to 12 months and construction would last 15 to 18 months.

Architect Jonathan Emmett told KVUE part of that design process would include input from the community.

"We want to really engage with the city, with the community, with local stakeholders to really inform the designer, really make sure this is a design that fits the local culture, really fits the user group,” said Architect Jonathan Emmett with Gensler.

Greeley feels like they have a good plan to offer the city.

"The current site where it is at McKalla place, it's been empty for 25 years. There have been no jobs. There has been no economic impact. There has not been one dime of tax revenue property or sales tax that has gone to the city. There's been no economic impact. There's been no community benefits, it's been that way for 25 years. We're proposing a situation where we could remedy that for generations to come and we're hopeful that the city and council members agree with what we're proposing,” said Dave Greeley.

The big thing a lot of people are talking about is the lack of parking. The proposal only has 1,000 parking spots for a 20,000-seat stadium.

Instead, Viallant said they will rely heavily on ride sharing, public transportation, and about 10,000 spaces nearby at businesses and industrial parks.

“People should understand yes, there are 1,000 parking spaces on site, but it may seem counterintuitive. It’s actually not bad to distribute all of those cars over a larger area, if we were trying to bring 8,000 vehicles to the corner of Braker and Burnet. That would be a problem and so instead of that, we’ve identified the fact that there’s enough parking in the area,” said Viallant. “It allows people to distribute themselves throughout that larger area and from that standpoint it helps alleviate traffic and congestion.”

"Domain Northside parking spaces are dedicated for our customers," said Aj Coffee, general manager of Domain Northside.

As for public transportation, Cap Metro told KVUE it is working to potentially move the closest rail station and said a station at the stadium would be critical.

But, Viallant said they don't think it's needed. “We don’t think it’s a piece of infrastructure that’s needed for the stadium,” said Viallant.

Council Member Leslie Pool said she wants the council to slow down. “We’re really giving away a lot by letting them use this public property for private purposes, tax free,” said Pool. She feels this proposal has shortcomings and plans to put an item on the council agenda that will open up the process to hear from other developers.

“I don’t think the council, and certainly the city should be jumping on board yet, I don’t think we should be jumping on board yet,” said Pool. Pool told KVUE she's already heard from two who would make the McKalla site a mixed use development. One would include affordable housing, the other would be similar to the Domain.

"Both of them look to me to be pretty much rooted in the values that are articulated by this council, as an expression as what the residents of the community have been looking for. So, I think it's important for everybody to know that there are other ideas as we should give them some airtime as well,” said Pool.

As part of Precourt’s proposal, they would give money to a nonprofit to go towards affordable housing, as well as consider some on-site.

“We heard in that process that affordable housing important to Austin. So for us being a community benefactor, we want to support the appropriate causes and we think a group like foundation communities would make all the sense in the world,” said Greeley.

While Precourt Sport Ventures wants to bring the team to Austin in 2019, Greeley said they still don't know where the team would play temporarily. He said they want to get a “go” on the stadium before moving forward with anything else.

“Everything filters, waterfalls from having a permanent stadium site done, once we have that and we’re full speed ahead, it’s green lights on all those other open issues,” said Greeley.

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