On Tuesday, Austin City Council members had their first opportunity to weigh in on the consideration of using city-owned property for a privately developed Major League Soccer stadium.
City staffers issued a report June 1 on whether the property at 10414 McKalla Place would be the best use for Precourt Sports Ventures to build a new 20,000-seat stadium to relocate the Columbus Crew team to Austin. PSV also issued its official proposal June 1.
Council Member Leslie Pool, whose District 7 includes McKalla Place, said she still has many questions and that Tuesday’s discussion did not move the needle for her to either supporting the stadium or opposing it. She posted a list of questions she would like city staff to answer.
For Pool, she said the conversation isn’t about whether Austin gets soccer team.
“We don’t have to think of this as being our last choice ever,” she said. “It’s not a choice between this specific team at this specific site before this specific deadline. It’s a choice between whether we take the time to get a good deal for the community or rush in and accept a bad one that puts us on the hook.”
The city hired consulting firm B&D Venues, a subset of the Brailsford & Dunlavey group based in Washington, D.C. that primarily advises municipalities and has offices in both Austin and Columbus, to provide a brief overview. However, many council members expressed a desire to have a deeper dive into PSV’s proposal.
B&D President Chris Dunlavey said his firm recommends that the city should consider adding a non-relocation provision that would prevent PSV from defaulting on its lease—PSV is proposing to lease the site for $1 per year for up to 80 years—and moving elsewhere as it is aiming to do currently with the Columbus Crew.
Even though PSV’s proposal has some holes, Dunlavey said PSV would privately finance the construction at $200 million and then donate the stadium to the city at the completion of construction.
“We believe that those terms—both because of preponderance of private funds and because of PSV taking responsible not only for the construction risk but also the operating risk of the facility—are relatively favorable for city,” he said.
Council Member Ann Kitchen wanted more information on getting a dollar amount for the economic value of using McKalla Place for a different use, which the report did not analyze but did provide some baseline information about its development potential for mixed-use.
“The issue of opportunity costs and alternative uses has to be thought of in the context that the potential for a major sports stadium is a relatively unique proposition that one might consider doing even if it were not financially the highest return to the city,” Dunlavey said.
Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo also listed a few things she would like to see added to the requirements for PSV, such as higher green building standards, laying out a living and prevailing wage for jobs on-site, even more public use opportunities, hiring of local vendors and having PSV pay for things such as security and trash removal.
“I think it could be a very unique opportunity and especially if we made it a model for local hiring and local jobs and local vendors and really high standards and environmental practices on-site. I think that would make it really match well with Austin values,” she said.
Pool said she also plans to prepare an item for the June 28 council meeting to get the ball rolling on issuing a request for proposals for McKalla Place to open it to other development options.
Two other development groups have also spoken publicly about their desire to build a mixed-use development on the site. The city has also indicated in its report that mixed-use would work on the site.