MLS Soccer - Support or Oppose?

What’s the mood of FAN members/boardies on handing/licensing city-owned land to the Columbus Crew? What’s it take to initiate a position vote?

I’m a hard no, at this point.

In the US, it seems that sports franchises have developed a business model attempting to pit cities against each other in the hope of extracting maximal subsidies.

I’d have less of an issue with the current McKalla Place proposal if equity and/or a percentage of gross revenue were on the table. I believe MLS explicitly disallows this type of equity agreement (it would mess up their monopoly power).

Another issue with McKalla Place is that increased popular support for the Red Line would likely make it harder for Cap Metro to divest the line.

Also, this part of the city is medium industrial. I’d imagine if the site were subdivided, upzoned, and a reconnected street grid implemented, these plots of land would sale for a pretty penny and then would be added to the property tax rolls. If the city licenses the land, Columbus Crew will not pay property taxes.

Going further, UT already has underused sports venues in the heart of the city. That would be a far superior result.


I would suggest enumerating a set of criteria for when a proposal to use city-owned land is beneficial for the city and our neighborhoods, and when it is not. You have mentioned a few reasons that you oppose the most recent proposal. If you take a step back and define the criteria you would use to evaluate any such proposal, then we can hopefully move towards a resolution.

As usual, the process for bringing a resolution to the membership is simply to initiate the topic here, discuss a resolution, and for a board member to “sponsor” it. You could do that with the McKalla Place proposal specifically, but it seems this issue begs for a conversation that is explicit about the evaluation criteria that would apply to any such proposal.

Certainly a topic worthy of a resolution! Would be great to include some link back to Imagine Austin and how this apparently (?) new concept of ‘under utilized park land’ fits in before it becomes part of the local lexicon.

I don’t see a reason for FAN to have an explicit methodology, we’re a political organization. Like even when it would sometimes (or not) pencil out, political considerations should be taken into account.

What should FAN be pushing Council and staff for (or against) in their talks with the team? I see many issues that this item touches on:
-Economic development policy reform
-Better utilizing city-owned land
-The need for a Streets Master Plan

There’s quite a bit of room for Austin to change how it approaches economic development policy. Instead of focusing on one major employer to hire 100 people, we should try to get 100 companies to hire 1 person. Here’s a recent Strong Towns article on this concept: Though it seems we do many of the things mentioned in the article, we still have programs and subsidies to attract major employers but nowhere near the same resources for small bets.

Soccer is great but I’m not so sure that basically giving away public land is the best course of action. With the team not having to pay property taxes, the City should be pursuing equity stakes. At the very least, they should be paying a percentage of gross revenues for a fixed period of time.

But would a soccer stadium at McKalla Place be the best and highest use? Would the City be better off using it in another way? I’d argue that it’s good the city would retain the property but licensing the use of the property should go to the highest bidder. The city could subdivide the land and then offer chunks of it up in an auction. If Columbus Crew bids and wins all the plots, great. If not, so be it. (Environmental remediation should happen before the sale)

Also, this piece of land and others around the city are begging to be reconnected to the grid. We need more traditional planning and less land use clerking.

@chris78701, thank you for the additional suggestions and detail. I gleaned from your comments a number of considerations for evaluating proposals for private entities to acquire or use public lands, including:

  • The market value of the land and whether the proposal effectively calls for a public subsidy (and therefore a “give-away”).
  • Whether subdividing the land would result in more varied uses that foster neighborhood improvement.
  • The effect of the proposed use of the land on mobility and making our neighborhoods and amenities accessible to a greater diversity and number of people.
  • Related to the market value factor, how the proposal affects the city’s finances (and therefore the services and finances of neighborhood residents).

I would add that, in cases where parks and open space are at issue, it is important to consider the Imagine Austin observation that Austin has a lot of parkland per capita. What the city lacks is a greater number of (smaller) parks accessible to a greater number of people.

I am but one voice here in this discussion. I didn’t mean to suggest that FAN shouldn’t take a position on this proposal. I am just trying to encourage a thoughtful conversation that would hopefully to lead to a solid resolution.

Regardless of FAN’s status as a “political” organization, its long-term effectiveness and credibility depends on taking positions with integrity. Taking positions with integrity requires having some level of consistency in principles and how they are applied. Being explicit about the evaluation criteria that underlie a stance on a specific issue, and being prepared to apply them conscientiously to other proposals, helps to ensure that consistency.

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Those are some excellent points and criteria that could definitely help ground discussion and debate on similar topics.

I’m open to ideas on next steps for the organization even though MLS2ATX is still an open question even at Council.

Circling back to my original statements, here’s some renderings for what could be possible

Or this with a Portland Timbers-sized stadium


@chris78701, certainly there are a lot of unknowns today on what a MLS proposal might include, but perhaps enough known to encourage discussion and debate on those points?

Historically the electorate has not respond at the polls to lightly debated topics, especially those with a short period between resolution posting and vote initiation. Abstaining is a natural reaction, which makes passing lightly debated issues a challenge as they are essentially counted as a vote against.

@rcauvin , at a glance I did not see park metrics in Imagine Austin, including pocket vs other? Certainly we need an open mind to all various possiblities, I am just intrigued that a City like Austin would have a land category of ‘under utilized parkland’ as bond after bond we commit to more investments. Any history or thoughts on reconciling the two would be appreciated.


@Phil_Wiley Good to have you back :slight_smile:

As it relates to parkland, here are two important excerpts from the original (unamended) Imagine Austin plan.

Among the complete communities indicators is:

“Households within 1⁄2 mile distance of park or accessible open space (percent)” - page 225

And the plan noted that:

“Despite having an above-average amount of parkland citywide, many neighborhoods are not within walking distance of a park. The absence of these smaller parks means that many areas of the city are not adequately served by the park system.” - page 158

While there was also an indicator for acreage of parkland, I believe these two items strongly suggest an emphasis on greater access to parks rather than maximizing acreage of parks.

If we consider @chris78701’s suggestion of subdividing “underutilized” parks instead of renting them out to private entities, I could see preserving some of the parcels as parkland but enabling thousands of additional people to live in close proximity to the open space.

There is an argument that for infrequently used assets like a soccer stadium, a higher priority should be placed on finding and fully exploring the viability of the most sustainable solution - which here most likely is a partnership with UT. The need for two x 20,000 capacity stadiums is not obvious.

If we are going to to have sustainability as a city goal people need to understand it’s not just recycling and solar, this would be a big savings and great precedent.

Plenty of other good ways to take the debate vs City
goals / priorities.

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I have lived in Gracy Woods (2 words, not one) since 1983 (on Doonesbury) and it makes me joyously happy and proud to think that a major sports team could be coming to our area. I absolutely support this. It will be great for everyone and so much fun. A few key points from the proposal released today:

The Stadium shall be a new, first class, state-of-the-art, natural grass, open-air facility that will serve as the home of the MLS club and will also host concerts, sporting events, cultural and community oriented events, projected to open prior to the commencement of the 2021 MLS season.

The City will own the land, infrastructure and stadium. The stadium will be privately financed and developed by PSV on behalf of the City, and donated to the City upon completion.

The Club shall determine a project budget for the design, development, and construction of the Stadium and a reasonable contingency amount, such total cost currently estimated not to exceed $200 million; and will be responsible for cost overruns.

During the initial 20-year term (and during any renewal term), the Club shall pay a fixed rental fee of $1 annually.

The Club will donate $4.8 million to Foundation Communities over 25 years, including an up-front donation of $500,000 to Foundation Communities’ new project at 12207 Waters Park—which includes 130 units of affordable housing less than two miles from McKalla Place—as well as continuing to explore the possibility of onsite affordable housing at McKalla Place.

To me, this sounds like a slam dunk deal for the city. Owning the land and getting a new stadium for the price of utilities/infrastructure development? The city would be crazy to pass that up. It’ll be a major boon not only to the area but the city as a whole.

Not to mention, it will be a lot of fun to watch.

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From this, it appears that it will be aligned in a north-south orientation along the train tracks (maybe, unless I’m looking at it wrong). You can also see the music/performance space: