MLS for Austin at Last?

Columbus Crew announces plan to relocate to Austin

Remember when we did that April Fools cover where we said an MLS team was going to build a stadium? Well …
Remember when we did that April Fools cover where we said an MLS team was going to build a stadium? Well …

News broke early Tuesday morning that the Columbus Crew Major League Soccer team is officially and actively looking to move to Austin, perhaps as soon as 2019, according to Grant Wahl in Sports Illustrated.

In an interview Tuesday morning, Crew team owner Anthony Precourt addressed some of the immediate questions that spring to mind for us here in Austin. Addressing the biggest question on the table, he said the team hadn’t yet identified a stadium site, but he started and ended our talk by stressing that he wouldn’t be looking for any public financing. He also reiterated a couple of times that he’s only looking at “Downtown locations that are accessible to the most people possible,” and added that he’s spent a lot of time in Texas, and Austin, and thinks the Keep Austin Weird culture would be a perfect fit for the town’s first major league sports team. Precourt confirmed that he’s had discussions with Circuit of the Americas’ Bobby Epstein, among others in town, but said he thought COTA was “not a viable MLS location.” It’s unclear, then, where that would leave COTA’s recently announced USL franchise, set to begin play in 2019.

Precourt reiterated that he’s only looking at “Downtown locations that are accessible to the most people possible.”

Echoing the sentiments of a lot of folks who’ve pondered the stadium conundrum, local political consultant David Butts on Tuesday morning outlined three criteria that would be important for him: 1) that the stadium get no public funding; 2) that there be a transit solution baked into the development plan; 3) that if the stadium is built on city land, the city keep control of the land – which leaves open the possibility that a lease of public land might be okay. I’m sure I won’t be the only person drawing concentric circles on a city map tonight, and trying to identify available tracts that might accommodate the 20 acres or so it might take to put in an urban stadium. For now at least, it appears that Precourt and the Crew are trying to check all three boxes.

Wherever the stadium might be, the team would need an interim plan while construction goes on; Kevin Lyttle reports in the Austin American-Statesman that the group is close to making a deal with UT to use Myers Stadium, where the UT women play, for 2019 and 2020.

Precourt has a previous connection with Austin: Shortly after his ownership group, Precourt Sports Ventures, took over the Crew in 2013, he initiated an affiliation with the Austin Aztex that included player loans, publicity cross-promotions, and a Crew visit to Austin for an exhibition series in 2015. Those games were played at … Mike Myers Stadium.

Meanwhile, the team has had no comment as of yet on the plan the Chronicle put forward in 2014 for a Town Lake site.

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