On Thursday, a group opposed to an Austin MLS stadium deal submitted a petition with 29,000 signatures, a move that could trigger a referendum.
Under an agreement finalized in December, Anthony Precourt‘s Precourt Sports Ventures will construct a new soccer-specific stadium for the upcoming Austin FC at the city-owned McKalla Place in North Austin. The agreement calls for the $225-million stadium 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, with the facility slated to open in 2021.
In response, a group dubbed Friends of McKalla Place announced on Thursday that it has submitted 29,000 signatures for a ballot item. According to a press release from the group, the signatures submitted “are in support of a petition for a public vote on an ‘ordinance by initiative [that would require] any sale, lease conveyance, mortgage or alienation of City owned land for a sports facility, sports arena, and/or concert stadium’ to be approved by voters before giving a private, for-profit business tax free use of public land.” More from the Austin-American Statesman:
The ordinance would not be a direct referendum on the stadium deal that was signed on Dec. 19. Instead, it calls for future elections on deals for stadiums or concert venues that are built on city-owned land….
“What’s even worse is how our City Council could even consider this kind of giveaway when Austin desperately needs affordable housing and mobility solutions,” Craig Nazor with the Sierra Club said in the release. “Perhaps most importantly, it denies the people their voice in how our public land is used.”
The Friends of McKalla describes itself as an “informal, grassroots organization that believes taxpayers should have the right to vote on use of public land for private profit,” according to the news release. An email to the group was not returned by press time Thursday.
The petition effort to get signatures has been paid for by a political action committee funded by MLS rival Bobby Epstein, chair of the Circuit of the Americas. Epstein is bringing a United Soccer League franchise to Austin and has said that having a MLS team in the same city could cripple the success of his team, Austin Bold FC.
The petition was submitted to the city clerk for a potential May 4 referendum. Signatures will now have to be counted and verified, as Austin requires at least 20,000 signatures from eligible registered voters to trigger a referendum.
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