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Soccer proponents abandon Butler Park, turn to alternate stadium sites

Monday, January 29, 2018 by Chad Swiatecki

Owners of a Major League Soccer team hoping to move their club to Austin have turned their ambitions for a new stadium away from a controversial waterfront site.

On Friday, Dave Greeley, president of Precourt Sports Ventures, issued a statement announcing the group was giving up its work related to Butler Shores Metropolitan Park following community objections and possible City Council action that would have removed all city parkland from stadium site consideration.

“Some in the community and the neighbors near Butler Shores have valid concerns about a possible stadium location at that site,” Greeley’s statement says.

“Based on this feedback, we are no longer exploring this location and are continuing our due diligence on other possible locations in the urban core. As we have stated from the onset of this process, finding the right site for a soccer park is of the utmost importance as we contemplate bringing Major League Soccer (MLS) to Austin. We look forward to further community dialogue and collaboration, and we remain committed to finding the best possible stadium site for all involved.”

Following that announcement, Council Member Ann Kitchen posted on Twitter that the resolution she’d slated for Council’s Feb. 15 meeting would not be on the agenda. That means one city parkland site – Roy G. Guerrero Colorado River Park – remains under consideration along with the city-owned McKalla Place property near the Domain.

“I believe this is a step in the right direction,” Kitchen posted. “I understand that city staff will not bring forward a report on potential locations Feb. 15 so our (resolution) will not be on agenda. I believe we can find an appropriate location for a soccer stadium that works for all.”

Precourt Sports Ventures had directed most of its attention and diligence in recent months toward putting together a proposal to convert Butler Shores to the site for a 20,000-seat stadium. Representatives from that group have maintained that a stadium will need to be located in the city core to attract the level of private investment needed to build it without public financing.

The pivot to the two remaining public sites and at least one privately owned property means the group will have to work quickly to meet its goal of relocating the Columbus Crew team to Austin in time for the kickoff of the spring 2019 MLS season.

Mark Littlefield, an Austin lobbyist working for Precourt, told the Austin Monitor the focus now is on putting together proposals that make use of public land attractive and beneficial enough to earn a vote from Council to move forward.

“You’ll see us come back as soon as we can, as fast as we can, with the best thing we can come up with for (Austin) to consider this site and partner with Precourt Sports Ventures,” Littlefield said. “The enemy of soccer coming to Austin is not City Council, because they’ve told us they want us to find a way to get this done. And voters in two polls have said they want to see it done. The enemy of this is getting the right deal and, more importantly, the calendar and timing.”

Littlefield said the group is in favor of the mandated referendum vote that would be needed to OK private use of parkland property, if the Guerrero site is selected for a stadium. That vote would add even more time to the planning and approval process for the team’s relocation, though Precourt is still in talks with the University of Texas about using Mike A. Myers Stadium and Soccer Field as a temporary location.

“Any proposal that includes the city of Austin and parkland … it’s got to be good,” he said. “If it’s parkland, we need a majority of Council members to say the offer is valuable enough that the voters should decide. To convince the Council, you have to convince the community and let the people know what might be of value. So the next step is to look at the available options left and decide if there is a deal that makes sense for the city of Austin and Precourt Sports Ventures, and get it on the table fast.”

Artist’s rendering of a soccer stadium on Butler Shores courtesy of Precourt Sports Ventures.

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