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Monday, March 12, 2018 by Chad Swiatecki

City to study McKalla Place as home for soccer stadium

It appears city leaders want to move ahead with making a piece of city-owned land north of the downtown core available as the site for a possible soccer stadium.

Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo has co-sponsored a resolution that will direct city staff to produce an analysis of the McKalla Place property just east of the 183/Mopac interchange, with the goal of determining if the land would be able to handle a proposed 20,000-seat stadium that would become the home of a Major League Soccer franchise whose owners want to move the team to Austin from Columbus, Ohio.

The resolution asks staff to conduct an economic analysis to find all benefits associated with building the stadium, identifying the opportunities and challenges with such a project, studying traffic and transportation considerations and creating a public engagement process for community stakeholders in any way connected to the effort.

“There’s lots of enthusiasm for this but if we’re moving forward with any kind of publicly owned land there have to be very significant community benefits and commitments to youth programs, mentoring and more,” said Tovo. “We’ve been looking at what other teams have done in these kinds of situations to get an idea. We know we’ll want the stadium to be available for other purposes than just soccer, so sharing for other uses will be important.”

Tovo said the timing for considering the resolution will be “weird” because its co-sponsor, Council Member Leslie Pool, will be absent for the March 22 meeting where the resolution will be posted, meaning it will be delayed into April. With many Council members already having scheduled absences from meetings in April, she said discussing the resolution with more than a minimum quorum present could prove difficult.

The resolution gives a June 1 deadline for staff to produce the report.

The focus on the McKalla Place property makes that parcel the last piece of city-owned property under consideration for the stadium, which looks to be funded with no public financing. Precourt Sports Ventures, the ownership group for the soccer club, had initially hoped to build the stadium on either Butler Shores Metropolitan Park or Roy G. Guerrero Colorado River Park, but public opposition to both sites caused the group to back away.

Precourt representatives said it is important to have a framework for a land use agreement in place before Council’s summer recess so the team can negotiate a temporary site in time to call Austin home for the spring 2019 MLS season.

“If the Council breaks in July with no movement, then that makes everyone nervous,” said Armbrust & Brown’s Richard Suttle, who is representing Precourt Sports Ventures.

Suttle said Precourt associates have already done an initial demographic and engineering study of the McKalla Place site, and will be looking for ways to incorporate a light rail or mass transit stop so that transportation is less of a concern for city leaders and nearby residents.

Suttle said movement on a development agreement with the city will also let the group move ahead with negotiations to use the University of Texas soccer facility as a temporary location.

Asked about the community benefits Tovo and other Council members have said they want to see, Suttle said it is common for the presence of a team and its related training facilities to produce enough positive impact to satisfy community leaders.

“Austin is different because lots of cities are the ones coming forward to provide help in having a team in their community,” Suttle said.

“There will be lots of community benefits with having a separate practice and training facility somewhere else in the city on a site that will be bigger than the 15 acres for the stadium.”

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

Austin City Council: The Austin City Council is the body with legislative purview over the City of Austin. It offers policy direction, while the office of the City Manager implements administrative actions based on those policies. Until 2012, the body contained seven members, including the city's Mayor, all elected at-large. In 2012, City of Austin residents voted to change that system and now 10 members of the Council are elected based on geographic districts. The Mayor continues to be elected at-large.

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