Columbus Crew SC owner Anthony Precourt believes that with a solid stadium plan in place, Austin MLS would prove to be a success.
Reports have indicated that Precourt could move Crew SC to Austin, where a new soccer-specific stadium would eventually be constructed as part of a larger development. Columbus has struggled with low attendance numbers at MAPFRE Stadium, which opened as MLS’s first soccer-specific stadium in 1999 but has since fallen behind the standards set by the league’s newer facilities. Precourt has emphasized that no final decisions have been made on relocation, but also noted that coming up with a downtown stadium plan will be crucial to assuring Crew SC stays in Columbus beyond 2018.
Austin is an option for relocation if a new stadium plan comes together there. While its demographics have led many to believe over the years that it could be a prime MLS market, Austin has had issues sustaining professional soccer in the past and has never found a suitable facility. Though a plan for Austin’s return to USL in 2019 is already taking shape, Precourt thinks that an Austin MLS club could succeed if the right stadium site can be secured.
When it comes to a possible models, Precourt points to several current MLS markets–including Atlanta, Orlando, and Portland–as the type of examples that could shape Austin. More from The Austin American-Statesman:
“Austin is the best untapped market in the United States for MLS,” Anthony Precourt, chief executive officer of Precourt Sports Ventures, told the American-Statesman. “I think it has a chance to be an MLS 3.0 club right out of the gate,” referring to the league’s highest franchise designation.
Crew SC ownership spent much of the day meeting individually with Austin media outlets at Elizabeth Christian Public Relations firm said a proven soccer track record isn’t a prerequisite if the city checks off enough other boxes.
“Did you anticipate that Atlanta would be a good soccer market a year ago?” Precourt said. “Did you anticipate Orlando would be a good soccer market a few years ago? Portland?
“There were concerns about Atlanta being over-saturated and their hockey team left. They’ve been extraordinary. Out of the box, they’ve pulled 70,000 fans their last three games. They qualified for the playoffs in their first year.”
As noted, plans for Austin’s USL return have already been announced, as Circuit of The Americas Chairman Bobby Epstein has revealed plans for a new soccer-specific venue at the Circuit of The America.