AUSTIN (KXAN) — In the marketing plan for Visit Austin, Austin’s convention and visitors bureau, the Sports Commission’s top three objectives include positioning the city as an ideal location for a major league soccer franchise.
With the news about Columbus Crew considering relocating to the live music capital, KXAN spent the day getting to the bottom of what we know and questions that remain.
In a conference call Tuesday morning, Columbus Crew Soccer Club Investor-Operator and Chairman Anthony Precourt said talk of a deal to host games at the University of Texas Austin is premature.
In a statement, the university said, “We are aware of MLS interest in Austin and have no opposition to exploring possible collaborative opportunities.”
As for more details on where Columbus Crew could play in Austin, Precourt says they’re just starting to look at options. “I’m not going to really comment on specific stadium sites at this time,” he told reporters.
But he did outline the wishlist MLS has for a location.
“Major League Soccer has learned over our history that operating in the urban core where the most people in the community can access the facility and enjoy the facility, that’s important. So a downtown location is important,” Precourt said, adding that he expects any new stadium to be privately financed.
Mayor Steve Adler told us Major League Soccer would be a huge success in Austin and the team would find lots of benefits of being here, but he doesn’t think there’s support for public funding of a stadium.
“We are very open to bringing in local investors. And we will have conversations about that,” he said, but wouldn’t name names.
A site that’s been a source of speculation for different developments is the Austin American-Statesman property at 305 S. Congress Ave., where real estate attorney Richard Suttle is listed as the trustee. City documents show as recently as last week, Suttle filled out a reporting form to lobby for the development of an MLS stadium.
On Wednesday, KXAN spoke with Suttle over the phone. He said, “There’s no connection. I mean I represent people all over,” referencing various groups he lobbies for.
He acknowledged, “It’s a very desirable piece of property,” and that talk about the property’s future, “will heat up but it’s not heating up yet.”
KXAN also found a 2014 resolution talking about soccer stadiums. In it, city council directed the city manager to work with stakeholders to identify the feasibility of an MLS franchise in Austin and identify potential sites.
But checking back Tuesday, KXAN learned a formal report was never done. City officials said they couldn’t find a location that met their criteria at the time, so the conversation ended there. KXAN is still working to determine what that criteria was.