As the city pursues Columbus Crew SC, some are wondering whether the use of parkland for an Austin MLS stadium would require a voter referendum.
Crew SC owner Anthony Precourt is mulling a possible move of the club to Austin. It is expected that the construction of a new Austin MLS stadium would be privately financed, but the Austin City Council recently voted to direct staff to evaluate underutilized publicly-owned land that could be used as the site of a venue.
As the process continues, some are wondering whether the use of parkland for a stadium will require the approval of Austin voters, citing state and local laws. For now, a lobbyist for the proposal says that one concern is whether a referendum would prevent the club from moving in time for the 2019 MLS season by delaying Precourt’s desired timeline for the plan. More from The Austin American-Statesman:
Precourt would like to have a site for a stadium picked by Jan. 1 and an agreement with the city in place by the summer. Meetings those deadlines would be difficult if the city held an election in either March or May, and outright impossible if a soccer election were held in November 2018.
“We are not afraid of an election on bringing in MLS to Austin,” [lobbyist Richard] Suttle told the American-Statesman. “The only concern I can think of is we have a finite amount of time to take advantage of this opportunity and we would have to evaluate whether an election scenario fits into the scheduling.”
Texas law states that no parkland can be sold at any price without voter approval. Austin’s city charter underlines the law, adding restrictions for leasing parkland as well. A drastic change in purpose for parkland would also trigger an election under state law.
But laws mandating an election are not entirely ironclad. Suttle said a stadium could be considered a parkland use. Concession contracts do permit government land to be used for private business purposes. The city also refused to give a definitive answer to whether an election would be necessary.
No final decisions have been regarding relocation, and Crew SC is slated to spend the 2018 MLS season at Columbus’s MAPFRE Stadium. In the meantime, media reports have indicated that Butler Shores Metropolitan Park may be the leading option for an Austin MLS stadium.
Photo by Matthew Bernhardt, via flickr.com.
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