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Expect talk on rent, rail station and ticking clocks at soccer hearing

Wednesday, August 1, 2018 by Chad Swiatecki

With the term sheet for a proposed professional soccer stadium on city property in North Austin out for public debate since Friday, a special City Council meeting today on the possible agreement will give those on both sides a chance to have perhaps the most substantive debate on the issue yet.

As of Tuesday evening, the likely plan for the meeting at City Hall was for public comment on the soccer proposal shortly after the 9 a.m. start time with Council adjourning to executive session at 11:15 a.m., followed by a reconvening at 3 p.m. that would feature staff and Council discussion. While no action will be taken on Wednesday related to the possible move of the Columbus Crew soccer club to Austin, the discussion could play a big part in how the 11 members vote at the Aug. 9 meeting on possibly authorizing city staff to execute an agreement based on the terms negotiated with Precourt Sports Ventures.

The term sheet would have PSV pay $550,000 in rent to the city annually beginning in 2026 but pay no property taxes after donating the 20,000-seat stadium to the city. The sheet also sets aside part of the 24-acre parcel for a 130-unit affordable housing development, with the city and team owners agreeing to work toward an arrangement to finance and build a MetroRail station next to the stadium.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler has praised the potential deal, and said he expects bringing a professional soccer team to Austin will help bond many different segments of the city’s population.

“The term sheet is kind of what I’d expected because Council wanted the parties to come back with specifics, and that’s what we’ve got in front of us,” he said. “I’ll have to see what my colleagues think, but there’s a value in a Major League Soccer team coming to Austin that would bring together many parts of the community in ways that don’t exist currently.”

Other Council members and neighbors near the McKalla Place property have said they see the team’s use of city land for a private business venture as a giveaway and want a mix of higher rent or payments to entities such as Austin Independent School District that would miss out on revenue because of the lack of property tax payments from PSV.

Another issue of expected debate is the cooperation on the rail line, which is estimated to cost more than $12 million. In a message posted on Council’s web forum Tuesday, Council Member Delia Garza proposed that:

  • PSV give Capital Metro $3 million up front for construction and bus fleet improvements
  • PSV add a $1 transportation fee to soccer game tickets, with the revenue going to the city and Capital Metro
  • The city allocate $2 million of the team’s total rent over 15 years to Capital Metro.

“I propose we include all 3 of these items in the final deal,” she wrote. “Again, it is very important any potential proposal includes a plan with transit-supportive measures such as the items listed above and I can only support a proposal that provides clear support for and makes a clear investment in our transit system.”

Prior to Garza’s posting, PSV lobbyist Richard Suttle told the Austin Monitor that the financial structure and planning coordination with the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority would be parts of an ongoing discussion with Precourt and the city, but that the stadium site would be designed to direct patrons toward the rail station.

“We did agree to designing this project so it will be designed to accommodate the rail station,” Suttle said. “What we pushed off on, so we could have more conversations with Cap Metro and surrounding landowners including the city, is ‘How and when do we finance and build the train station?'”

Suttle said any chance for professional soccer to come to Austin depends on Council voting next week to move forward with an agreement that reflects the term sheet.

“In order for MLS Austin to become a reality and (be) playing in a new stadium in 2021, Anthony Precourt has to start spending a lot of money on engineers and architects, and they can only do that when they have the site determined,” he said. “So we’re asking that the site be determined on August 9, then Anthony in a show of good faith will start spending a lot of money on those architects and engineers. Then he designs it, goes through the permitting process, and gets his permits, and he builds it to be playing in 2021.”

Photo by Gordon Flood (originally posted to Flickr as Man Utd V Arsenal) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

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