Analysis: Public dollars have provided about 1/3 of funds to build soccer-specific MLS stadiums

Renderings for a proposed Major League Soccer stadium at McKalla Place in Austin were released May 31.

Renderings for a proposed Major League Soccer stadium at McKalla Place in Austin were released May 31.

Precourt Sports Ventures has stated that a potential soccer stadium in Austin would be privately funded, and no taxpayer money will be sought


When and if he brings professional soccer to Austin, Anthony Precourt has pledged to do so without seeking taxpayer funds to build his stadium.

Local attorney Richard Suttle of Armbrust & Brown, who represents Precourt Sports Ventures, said the group recognized that funds from Austin taxpayers through a direct subsidy would not be an option on the table if PSV were to move the Columbus Crew to Austin.

“Our city is not one of the ones that has the desire or capability to fund a stadium,” Suttle said.

That would put Austin in line with other recent cities that have seen their stadiums built entirely with private funding. In Minneapolis, privately funded $250 million stadium Allianz Field is under construction and set to open in 2019. Recently built stadiums in Los Angeles, Orlando and San Jose also received no public funding.

So is private financing of athletic stadiums a trend? According to Stanford University professor and sports economics expert Roger Noll, financing deals that went badly for the public entity—and the negative media coverage that followed—have changed the way stadium financing deals are approached now.

“Cities agreed to deals that caused them to lose hundreds of millions of dollars. The opponents have used this effectively to get citizens to be more wary,” Noll said.

Although Noll says more teams are looking for large-scale redevelopment deals as opposed to subsidies, public financing is hardly a thing of the past. The city of Washington, D.C., invested $150 million for land acquisition and infrastructure, according to the Washington Post, for the construction of Audi Field, DC United’s new stadium that will open this season.

Dan Barrett, executive vice president at CAA Icon, has represented both private and public clients in stadium negotiation deals. He said the negotiations are more scrutinized now than they have been in the past, but they can still work for both sides if executed correctly. Barrett pointed to the city of Portland’s deal with its MLS team, the Timbers, to renovate Providence Park as a mutually beneficial agreement.

"There’s been a lot of press or coverage [that] the public sector is not investing in these projects. The truth is they still are because they realize the benefits that come out of them,” Barrett said.

In 2014 the city of Washington, D.C., was considering what would become Audi Stadium and compiled public and private funding data on each soccer-specific MLS stadium.

Using that data compiled by the Council of District of Columbia, along with funding information available for stadiums built since 2014, Community Impact Newspaper found that on average, soccer-specific MLS stadiums received about 33 percent of their total project costs from public funds.

The data analyzed includes 18 MLS stadiums, and does not include stadiums for Atlanta United, New York FC, New England Revolution, Vancouver Whitecaps FC or the Seattle Sounders—each of whom plays in a stadium designed for a sport other than soccer.

By Jack Flagler
Jack is the editor of Community Impact Newspaper's Central Austin and Southwest Austin editions. He began his career as a sports reporter in Massachusetts and North Carolina before moving to Austin in 2018. He grew up in Maine and graduated from Boston University, but prefers tacos al pastor to lobster rolls. You can get in touch at jflagler@communityimpact.com


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