As a native Austinite, Lifetime Longhorn and former City of Austin (City) Planning Commissioner, I must admit I never imagined a professional sports team would ever come to our City. But the growth continues despite the lack of transportation infrastructure. In Precourt Sport Ventures’ (PSV) ’s proposal, submitted to the City on on June 1, 2018, I see a fiscally responsible approach to the new stadium, a sensible traffic and parking analysis, and an opportunity to bring various groups together for the betterment of our community.

Our City is the largest metropolitan area without a major league sports team, and it appears MLS is on the precipice of changing that. On June 1, City Staff released a 34-page report endorsing McKalla Place, a 24-acre, City-owned property near the Domain, as the future home for an Austin-based Major League Soccer (MLS) team: “Overall, staff’s assessment indicates that McKalla Place is a suitable site for a[n] MLS stadium,” the report stated. “There is current compliant zoning, sufficient utility capacity, and daily on-site trips would be low.”

This was done on the same date PSV, the operating entity leading the MLS2ATX initiative, released its 189-page executive summary, proposing “to partner with the [City] to transform 101414 McKalla Place into a high-performance asset for the citizens of the City in keeping with community values.” However, only 9 of the 24 acres will be developed for the stadium; the remaining 15 will go toward commercial, retail and residential development, including affordable housing.

Photo Credit: TBG, CAAIcon, and Gensler

There are regulatory issues to overcome: while there is currently compliant zoning for the stadium itself, PSV will need to seek approval to exceed the 60-foot height limitation imposed by the zoning code in the area, and PSV’s executive summary states the City “shall work in good faith with PSV and/or its development partner to modify existing zoning, as may be necessary, to allow for the stadium and ancillary development by PSV[.]”  No question other regulatory issues will arise throughout the course of the design and construction process; I’m glad to see PSV has partnered with quality entities to address them (see p. 2-3 of the PVS executive summary).

After reviewing PVS’s executive summary, however, it’s clear they have done their homework; a preliminary traffic analysis is included, along with a supporting site access letter, economic analysis and other key components (including letters of support from various community stakeholders and chambers). The proposed public-private deal structure, whereby the City will own the land, infrastructure and stadium, is not extraordinary: the Long Center is a prime example of a public-private venture; the Dell Seton Medical Center at UT-Austin is another; and other MLS teams have entered into such deals before (see p. 151 of the PVS executive summary).

Our MLS Team would play in a temporary location in 2019 and 2020, with stadium completion slated for the start of the 2021 MLS Season. I’m intrigued by PSV’s proposed commitment to the Austin community above all else: PSV anticipates $354M in economic impact over the first 25 years of the stadium, $93.2M of which will go toward Quality of Life Improvements—$57.8M to Youth Opportunities and Health/Wellness; $24.2M to Nonprofit Support and Economic Opportunity; and $11.2M to Public Access and Park Beautification (see pp. 94-95 of the PSV executive summary). At the community meetings (pp. 31-33), citizens voiced their concerns regarding the proposed stadium, ranging from traffic congestion to its impact on lower-income areas, in particular.

I’m particularly interested in seeing and hearing more about the Quality of Life Improvements (perhaps PSV would benefit from the creation of an initiative similar to UT-Austin Division of Diversity and Community Engagement (DDCE) in this regard?),and look forward to the City Council and PSV indeed reaching an agreement on proceeding with the proposed stadium at McKalla Place by the end of June.