MLS made its plans for Austin official on Tuesday, announcing that Austin FC will begin play in 2021 as the league’s 27th club.
Backed by Anthony Precourt, Austin FC will play home matches at a new $225 million stadium at the city-owned McKalla Place in North Austin that is scheduled to open in 2021. An official announcement from MLS on its plans for the club had appeared inevitable, especially since it was announced in December that Precourt’s Precourt Sports Ventures and the City of Austin finalized their stadium agreement.
Plans for the club were announced Tuesday at a ceremony that included Precourt and MLS commissioner Don Garber. More from the Austin American-Statesman:
“At the end of the day, this is not just about being a business,” Precourt said. “This is about being a community asset and being a unifying element for the city. Austin has so many amazing things going on culturally, and we think major league sports adds a unique element.”
Team officials hope to break ground at the stadium site by September and are finalizing plans that would allow construction to begin on a training facility at a yet-to-be-named private site. Some opposition to the stadium deal still remains — in the form of a petition filed with the city aimed at forcing a referendum — but the league isn’t worried.
“We have faith in the mayor, we have faith in the City Council, and we have faith in the work that Anthony (Precourt) is going to do early on with his community benefits agreement,” Garber said. “People here will see the value very quickly of having an MLS team. We’ll support any democratic process, but we’re here to stay.
“We can’t get distracted by the noise.”
Precourt initially announced in the fall of 2017 that he was exploring a move of Columbus Crew SC to Austin, but eventually a solution was reached that allows the Crew to remain in Columbus while Precourt launches Austin FC. Jimmy and Dee Haslam–owners of the NFL’s Cleveland Browns–and the Columbus-based Edwards family have bought into MLS and received operating rights to Columbus, where they are planning a new stadium. Precourt, meanwhile, remained an MLS investor in order to proceed with plans for Austin FC.
The Austin stadium agreement, which has drawn opposition in some circles, calls for the facility to be privately financed, but fall under city ownership. PSV would not pay property taxes, but instead lease the stadium from the city and make annual rent payments of $550,000 beginning in year six of a 20-year lease.
As for MLS, it is slated to grow from 24 to 27 teams in the coming years. FC Cincinnati is beginning play this year as the league’s 24th team, while expansion clubs in Nashville and Miami are slated to launch in 2020.
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