The vote authorized a stadium and lease agreement with Precourt Sports Ventures, the investor-operator of the MLS team Columbus Crew SC, to build a $200 million, 20,000 seat stadium on a 24-acre piece of city-owned land at 10414 McKalla Place near Burnet Road and Braker Lane.
Thrilling news vs. traffic concerns
Many North Austin residents were thrilled with the news.
“I was very pleased,” said Brock Williams, who lives in the Walnut Crossing neighborhood near Parmer Lane and MoPac. “I believe that City Council listened to the entire city of Austin.”
As an avid soccer fan who has also coached soccer, Williams said he is also pleased with the community benefits that include donations to area youth soccer leagues and for affordable housing.
“More than anything, though, the city has talked about doing affordable housing for so long and there’s a financial commitment from PSV for that,” he said. “We want those people to help us get affordable housing done.”
Northeast resident Jason Luebbe said he hopes that having an MLS team could bring the same level of community support that The University of Texas receives.
“I’m sure I’ll definitely go [to a game] since it’s in North Austin and closer to me and where I travel quite a bit,” he said. “It will be good to cheer for an Austin team.”
However, other North Austin residents remain concerned about the influx of traffic and how a stadium will affect their neighborhoods.
“I do not support it due to location issues; in fact I am actually heartsick that it was approved,” resident Karyn Flores said. “I have lived in the Old Milwood neighborhood since 2012 and the traffic has grown exponentially since then. The last thing I want is something adding more traffic. While I fully recognize that housing will also bring traffic I would be much more in support of this given the actual need for affordable housing.”
Marisa Perryman from Gracywoods said she is not surprised at council’s vote but is glad that efforts by council members Leslie Pool and Alison Alter, both of whom voted against the deal, helped improve “a bad deal.”
“For me, the environmental issues were of top importance, so it did help ease my concerns that PSV will still have to go through the permitting process,” she said.
Traffic in her neighborhood is already an issue, and Perryman said she hopes the city can work to ease that pain and also make the area safer for pedestrians.
Residents weigh in online
As of 12:40 p.m., a Community Impact Newspaper post about the vote on the Northwest Austin Nextdoor account resulted in 27 comments.
Of those, 10 residents voiced support for the stadium and the remaining either oppose the location, asked follow-up questions or have concerns about the impact it might have.
Here are a few highlights:
- Resident from Mesa Park: “I am not in favor of a soccer stadium at that location. Not against a soccer stadium—just not at that location There are too many unanswered questions. Pool definitely represents my point of view.”
- Resident from Gracywoods: “I support it. It's a fantastic site for a soccer stadium and provides an avenue to showcase the City of Austin that wasn't there before. Could it have been smoother? Sure. Was it perfect? No, but nothing ever is. Overall it was a good job by most of the council to make the terms favorable to the City. Some of the actions by certain council members related to the process do seem questionable and almost as if there is some ulterior motive behind their decision making. Something to investigate.”
- James Sawyer from NACA-Quail Creek: “Enjoy folks, you’re paying for it. Deferred taxes are an implicit subsidy, and every economic study ever conducted indicates that the taxpayer will eat the downside of this moronic stadium deal.”
- Resident from Gracywoods: “Glad to see that this vote passed and think that overall the MLS team will be good for our neighborhood and for Austin. Sure there are concerns that will need to be addressed but nothing is ever perfect. I don't agree with Councilwoman Pool's opposition here and am excited at the prospect of having a professional team nearby. Score for Austin.”
Other options for McKalla
In the early hours of June 29, City Council had authorized starting negotiations with PSV for an MLS deal as well as agreeing to accept other mixed-use development proposals for McKalla Place.
Submissions closed Aug. 3, and the city received six proposals from five groups. These proposals envisioned everything from dense urban development to a protect park space and affordable housing to cultivating culture.
Local developer John Chen and his team, which included Marcus Whitfield, had proposed building 843 affordable apartments, a grocery store, a wellness and fitness studio, education space and office space.
He said their team spent “hundreds of hours on this if not more and quite a significant amount of money” on their proposal as he imagines the other groups do as well.
“I don’t believe that the council acted in a way that really showed a serious consideration of the alternatives, and it seemed as if they were just rolling forward toward the soccer proposal the whole time.”
He also pointed out other problems, such as the ongoing litigation in Columbus to prevent the Crew from relocation, as signs the MLS deal isn’t official yet.
“It seems to be a major challenge given the fact they don’t have much time left and that they rushed the process,” Chen said.
Neil Francois from Capella Capital Partners said his company is actually pleased council moved forward with soccer.
“We’ve always supportive of MLS coming to Austin, he said. “We think there was probably a better site than that one.”
His firm also proposed a mixed-used development with affordable housing at McKalla Place and is in the midst of seeking approval for construction plans to develop the adjacent 3-acre parcel for the North Gateway Plaza project. This project will include a 22-story multifamily high-rise and 11-story office building.
“The best case scenario is for construction to happen at the same time [as the stadium],” he said. “From start to finish from moving dirt to [getting a certificate of occupancy], takes 18-24 months.”
Capella had pitched two proposals for McKalla place, including one that proposed co-developing the site with PSV. Francois said the firm is still open to conversations with PSV to co-develop the non-stadium portion of the property for mixed-use density.
“We’re excited about the opportunity and would welcome the chance to co-develop the site with Precourt and feel we probably have the best plan that incorporates the soccer stadium,” he said.
Other groups speak out
After the vote Wednesday, the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce released its statement.
“This is a game changer and major milestone in the history of the Austin region to secure our first major league sports franchise," chamber President and CEO Mike Rollins said. "It is an extraordinary opportunity to bring our community together. Though it appeared there was much unpredictability around the process to get to this point, Precourt has demonstrated its commitment to partner with the Austin community, and we thank them for their investment of hundreds of millions of dollars in the area. Thanks also to the multitudes of engaged supporters who demonstrated their passion for soccer.”
The Workers Defense Project, which advocates for the rights of low-income workers, including those in construction, has a Better Builder program in which it asks developers to require higher wages and safety standards on construction sites.
“The working families who build our city should be able to go home safely each night with enough money to live in the city they build,” said Jessica Wolff, Better Builder Business Liaison of Workers Defense Project. “We applaud Precourt Sports Ventures for voluntarily committing to Better Builder standards at McKalla Place.”