The City of Austin has sealed a deal with Precourt Sports Ventures (PSV) that will lead to the development of a $225m (£177.3m/€196.1m) stadium housing a Major League Soccer (MLS) expansion franchise earmarked for launch in 2020 or 2021.
Groundbreaking for the over 20,000-seat, privately funded stadium will be in 2019 and the facility is scheduled to open in the spring of 2021. The city-owned 24-acre parcel of land has been vacant for over 25 years and will be transformed into a state-of-the-art park and stadium, which will be entirely funded by PSV, including all construction costs and operating expenses during the course of the club’s lease of the stadium from the City.
“Bringing major league sports to Austin will help bring all parts of our diverse city together, so today’s lease signing is very exciting for our community,” Mayor Steve Adler said in a statement. “The partnership between the team, the League and the City is a great deal for Austin. I can’t wait for us to celebrate our first MLS championship.”
Anthony Precourt, chairman of PSV, added: “We are extremely grateful to the City of Austin for allowing us to become a part of this wonderful community, and we are honoured that through building this stadium we will be able to create jobs, provide a first-rate soccer and entertainment complex and bring a unifying platform for all of Austin to rally behind – all at no cost to the tax payer.”
MLS is currently determining if Austin FC will begin play in either 2020 or 2021, with commissioner Don Garber hailing the “tremendous support” from Austin’s soccer fans, the corporate community and local government. Although the official release announcing the deal failed to commit to a launch year, Precourt has stated his preference for 2021.
The stadium will also serve as an entertainment and multi-purpose event venue for the City of Austin offering a performance area and related facilities. The site will house a park and open space which will be available to the public year-round.
Under the agreement announced yesterday (Wednesday), the city will own the facility and lease it back to the team, with PSV paying a total of $8.25m in rent over a 20-year lease term. PSV will also pay $3.64m to Capital Metro over 15 years for use in enhancing transport facilities.
Adler has hailed the agreement as no government money is being assigned to finance the stadium’s construction. By contrast, the Austin-American Statesman newspaper noted that Nashville will contribute $225m in revenue bonds to fund its 30,000-seat MLS stadium. “From a financial standpoint, this is the best such deal for a major league team that anybody has seen,” Adler said.
Wednesday’s announcement came with PSV and Precourt having initially targeted moving the existing Columbus Crew franchise to play in a new Austin stadium. PSV owns the Crew, but the team is now set to stay in Columbus under a deal through which a new stadium will be built in the Ohio capital and ownership transferred to a group led by Cleveland Browns owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam.
“We’re reaching a very elegant solution and a very happy outcome for both Columbus and Austin,” Precourt added. “I’m impressed with the progress that the Save The Crew movement has made, and the new investor-operator has very ambitious plans for a downtown stadium. They’ve lined up support from city, county and state. I’m very, very happy for Columbus and the fact that Crew SC remains in Columbus. We’re really excited to be launching a new club in Austin.”
Images: Austin FC