AUSTIN (KXAN) — Shortly after the two Austin chambers announced support for Major League Soccer in Austin, a whistle blew.
“I want to call a foul here today,” a woman said. “I’m with the community and I want to make it clear we like soccer but we do not want it on public land.”
She was the latest voice to urge the city to keep parkland from a list of possible venues. At the beginning of February, activists gathered at Roy Guerrero Metro Park, one of the spots highlighted for a potential soccer stadium if the Columbus Crew, owned by Precourt Sports Ventures, make the move to Austin. Initially, Butler Shores was an option as well. Despite Precourt Sports Ventures originally saying the downtown space near Lady Bird Lake was “virtually perfect” for a soccer stadium, the location was taken off the list.
The Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce and the Austin LGBT Chamber of Commerce had praised the soccer team’s possible move as something that would bring a “trickle effect” to benefit the community. The protester urged them to make sure that would actually happen — that the potentially hundreds of jobs the stadium would create would provide a living wage — and that those involved in planning the move considered a variety of voices.
“We’ve seen again and again the business community come in here, wipe out much of what has been good in Austin, destroy our culture, all so a group of white business people can profit,” the protester said.
Rudy Garza with the Austin Chamber of Commerce emphasized during the chambers’ announcement of support that they needed the community to step up and make their voices heard. He reiterated that when addressing the protester.
“I can absolutely assure you the sports club is taking those comments and all the sensititives to our community very seriously,” Garza added.
“It’s not going to happen without the people of Austin and Central Texas telling Austin City Council and others we want you here,” said Drew Scheberle from the Austin Chamber of Commerce.
Outside, a small group of other protesters held signs, some of which read: “Eject Precourt from Austin.”
In October the Columbus Crew owner announced it was considering moving the team to Austin, with the stipulation that the city builds a stadium there. The Austin Parks and Recreation Department has been and continues to outline possible stadium sites. The Austin City Council will likely postpone its scheduled Feb. 15 discussion of the stadium to give those researchers more time to work.
What Council Thinks
After reaching out to the Austin City Council KXAN learned “where the stadium could go?” is turning into “if the stadium should be built on public land at all?” Many on council are waiting for another proposal from city staff or Precourt Sports Ventures.
Between Guerrero Park and the north location along McKalla Place, a former storage site north of US 183 near the J.J. Pickle Research Campus, Council Member Leslie Pool, District 7, says she prefers the latter and any park land is off the table.
“We would need to see concrete benefits going back to the community that people would see and understand,” Pool said. She however still wants more options as does the majority of the council.
“My favorite option for an MLS stadium is a location that works. That means something that works for the team and the community. I think there are still options to be discussed,” said Mayor Steve Adler. He described how at the end of the day “this is a decision that the team makes. But I certainly want to be working with the team. The city should be doing everything they can to help facilitate that conversation.”
Council Member Jimmy Flannigan, District 6, tells KXAN he’s waiting to see final plans from the Columbus-based team on what a stadium would look like at different locations.
District 4 Council Member Greg Casar’s office is not making commitments. “Our office is listening to the community and are looking forward to continuing to receive feedback,” he wrote through a spokesperson. He joins Council Member Ann Kitchen from District 5 who is waiting for other options to appear for other possible locations.
Council Member Ellen Troxclair, District 8, did not want to comment on which location she would prefer. Council Members Ora Houston, Delia Garza, Pio Renteria, Kathie Tovo, and Alison Alter have not yet responded to KXAN’s request for comment.