'Limited window of time to act': Austin chambers urge Austin City Council to work toward bringing Major League Soccer to city

The Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, along with others in the business community, announced its support for bringing Major League Soccer to Austin at a news conference on Feb. 9.

The Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, along with others in the business community, announced its support for bringing Major League Soccer to Austin at a news conference on Feb. 9.

Austin City Council has a "limited window of time to act" if it wants to attract Major League Soccer to the city, leadership from the Greater Austin and Austin LGBT chambers of commerce said Friday.

Speaking at a news conference to express support for MLS coming to Austin, community leaders emphasized both the economic and cultural good a major league sports team could offer.

"This is a logical and critically important step in Austin’s evolution to being a world-class city that embraces world heritage, health and wellness, inclusivity, the outdoors, diversity, family values, the burgeoning impact of the millennial generation and economic prosperity," the Greater Austin chamber said in a statement.

The chamber approved a resolution of support for the MLS-to-Austin effort at its Feb. 2 board meeting.

The resolution urges Austin City Council to support the vetting of both private and public land for a potential MLS stadium site.

Not everyone at the news conference was there to support the effort, however. A protester blew a whistle during the news conference Friday to voice her opposition to the use of public land for a professional soccer facility.

"We do not want soccer on public land," said the protester, who left the building immediately after the conference concluded. "If you're going to bring a thousand jobs we want to make sure those jobs are living-wage, that they're union, that they've got benefits. ... We've seen again and again the business community ... wipe out much of what has been good about Austin and destroy our culture all so that a group of white business people can profit."

A group of East Austin residents held signs outside the chamber's downtown headquarters opposing the use of public land for an MLS stadium or practice facility.

Rudy Garza, a former Austin assistant city manager who chairs the chamber's council of small enterprises, said it is important for everyone to share their opinions on the possible move of a Major League Soccer franchise to Austin.

"We do appreciate your comments, but I can assure you the sports club is taking those comments and all the sensitivity to our community very seriously," Garza said.

Earlier this month, city of Austin staff postponed an analysis of public properties that could be used for a Major League Soccer facility.

Outcry over the possible use of city parkland at Butler Shores prompted Precourt Sports Ventures to remove that site from consideration. The park at 200 S. Lamar Blvd. had been PSV's preferred site.

Concerned citizens are now focusing their efforts on protecting parkland at Roy G. Guerrero Colorado River Park, the last remaining park on PSV's stadium site shortlist.

If Austin were to turn over its parkland for private development, it would likely require approval from the voters.

The other public property PSV is considering is 10414 McKalla Place, a vacant city-owned site near The Domain off Braker Lane and Burnet Road.

But none of the private tracts PSV and MLS may be vetting have been publicly announced.

PSV President Dave Greeley has said the firm expects to bring its feedback on the sites it has been considering before the City Council. The firm would offer a presentation on the operational and traffic considerations as well as community benefits it aims to bring to the site, he said.

PSV's goal is to move its MLS franchise, Columbus Crew SC, to Austin in time to compete in the 2019 season, which would begin in March 2019.

"City of Austin leaders only have a limited window of time to act for a realistic shot at a Major League Soccer franchise," the Greater Austin chamber said in its statement of support. "If not, the extraordinary opportunity goes away for the foreseeable future."
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