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Tuesday, June 12, 2018 by Chad Swiatecki

Council members ask questions and PSV surveys support as soccer relocation winds on

The debate around using city property to build a professional soccer stadium in North Austin looks to be one of the larger issues on City Council agendas ahead of the July recess, and Council Member Leslie Pool provided an early look Monday at her line of thinking on the matter.

Pool, whose District 7 includes the McKalla Place parcel selected as the best site involving municipal land, took to the City Council Message Board and posted 17 questions she wants answered by either city staff or members of Precourt Sports Ventures, owners of the Columbus Crew SC team that is attempting to move to Austin. The questions for Tuesday’s work session center around the infrastructure needed to build a stadium, how much of those costs the city would be responsible for, the opportunity costs of building a stadium with no property tax revenue compared to other possible development, and how the city’s analysis arrived at its soccer-related economic benefit forecasts.

“I believe that we need robust information on the costs and benefits of any specific proposal for the McKalla Place site in order to make an informed decision,” she posted. “I look forward to discussing how we can obtain all of the information we need on realistic economic impact estimates, city costs, and opportunity costs so that we can weigh all of the considerations at hand and make an informed decision.”

PSV has proposed paying a $1 yearly lease to the city on the property and has plans to privately fund the 20,000-seat stadium’s construction before giving the stadium to the city, a move that would eliminate its property tax burden. The group is pushing to have an agreement structured by the end of the month to begin plans to relocate from Ohio in time for the 2019 season.

Also released Monday were the results of a new public opinion poll commissioned and paid for by PSV and conducted by Opinion Analysts that showed a majority of respondents support a Major League Soccer team coming to Austin.

The push poll of 400 likely voters with a 4.9 percent margin of error found initial support for an Austin team at 63 percent. Following a series of questions exploring issues surrounding the issue such as the use of city property by a business, traffic and loss of land for other uses, respondents’ support for a team grew to 72 percent.

A December poll sponsored by PSV also found strong support for a team in Austin. Dan Vaillant, senior vice president of CAA ICON sports consultants and a member of the PSV team leading the relocation effort, said Austin’s growth and diverse population has long been an attractive market for those in the soccer world.

“Of all the major sports, soccer fits well with Austin with the way it’s growing and attracting millennial fans, and the amount of people that follow European soccer here is incredible,” he said. “Austin is going to come in here and hopefully put a real good team on the field – Columbus already has that great team – and the community right now is ripe for someone other than (the University of Texas) to play here. We’re confident they’re going to embrace the team, and once we start selling out some matches, I think there will be a natural rivalry between the folks in Houston and Dallas because, let’s face it, everyone wants to come to Austin.”

Photo by Matthew D. Wilson (LtPowers) [CC BY-SA 2.5], from Wikimedia Commons.

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