Why Austin City Council members delayed decision on MLS stadium again

U.S. & World

AUSTIN (KXAN) — For the second time this summer, the Austin City Council voted to delay a decision on a proposed Major League Soccer stadium at McKalla Place. After discussing the deal for hours, council members decided they needed more time to make an informed decision.

“In essence, we just ran out of time. We had some big issues yesterday before the council,” said Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo.

Earlier Thursday, the City Council set midnight as a deadline for ending the meeting, rather than continuing the discussions late into the night.

“It’s an important decision for the city of Austin, and we really owe it to our community to take time to make sure we’re reviewing it carefully,” Tovo said.

Many council members said they felt unprepared to vote on the deal because they hadn’t had adequate time to review it.

“The term sheet just got released last night,” said Council Member Ora Houston at Thursday’ meeting. “I have not read through the whole thing, so there’s no way I’m going to be able to vote on it tonight.”

“We received them first on July 27, and then we were asked to look at a revised term sheet the night before our council meeting when we had over 100 other items to be discussed,” Council Member Alison Alter said.

She told KXAN one night isn’t enough time to look over the proposal and cast an informed vote.

“They want to slide them in without scrutiny,” Alter said. 

Several council members also proposed amendments to the deal during the meeting. 

“There are easily two dozen amendments,” Council Member Leslie Pool said. “I take the time necessary to review the complicated elements of these very dense deals to make sure that citizens of Austin are the ones benefiting.”

When asked if she’s worried yet another delay may lead to Austin missing out on the opportunity altogether, Pool said, “It is not on the city of Austin at all. If they can’t make the deal here it is because [team owner Anthony] Precourt has done a very poor job of trying to negotiate and convince city leadership that he should be here at all.”

Tovo said, “It’s a big decision, and I believe we’re going about it the right way.”

Alter said, “I do not think it would’ve been responsible for us to have taken a vote under those circumstances last night, unless the vote was no.”

The special meeting will begin Wednesday, Aug. 15 at 9 a.m. 

Alter told KXAN she’d like the council to consider alternate proposals for McKalla Place that would bring more affordable housing. 

Council Member Ellen Troxclair said in a statement to KXAN: “I’m excited about the opportunity to bring a Major League Soccer team to Austin. If we can ensure that this is also a good deal for taxpayers, soccer fans, and the community, everyone wins. This is a big deal with serious financial implications that will last 50+ years, and I look forward to continuing to work out the details and the best course of action with the Council over the next week.”

Mayor Steve Adler said he would not allow the special meeting to go past 11:30 a.m. Wednesday.

“So let’s work rapidly on Wednesday, because wherever we are at 11:30 on Wednesday, I’m going to move the question,” Adler said.

Adler was outspoken about his support of the stadium plans throughout the meeting.

“I look at the deal that’s been struck here, and I look at it compared to similar deals that are being arranged all over the country, and this one is better than those,” Adler said.

The mayor added that he feels the stadium would allow for a diverse type of meeting place that the city’s been lacking.

“One of the problems that this city has is that we know that it’s one of the most segregated cities in the country,” Adler said. “We don’t have very many events in this city that bring everybody in this city together, where people in different walks of life are next to each other and equal and cheering together. That’s what this can represent for this city.”

MLS originally wanted an answer from the city in July. Precourt Sports Ventures was then given an extension to Aug. 9. In Thursday’s meeting, Precourt Sports Ventures attorney Richard Suttle expressed frustration that the group would have to ask for another extension.

“The MLS had told us we need to be able to show we had a stadium site in Austin, Texas by, I believe it was the end of June? July 1,” Suttle said. “Because we were unable to get that done, we had to go back and get an extension, they extended that until tomorrow, and so now we have to go back to New York, and tell them we were unable to reach an agreement again, and we will have to go back and ask for an extension to next week.”

The second extension was granted Friday.

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