Austin Mayor: Referendum Would Not Affect Austin FC Stadium Agreement

Austin FC stadium rendering

With a petition spurred by the deal likely to create a referendum, Austin mayor Steve Adler does not believe the election’s outcome would affect an Austin FC stadium agreement

Earlier this month, it was revealed that the group Friends of McKalla Place had submitted enough certifiable signatures to facilitate a public referendum. The referendum would ask voters to approve an ordinance that calls for voter approval of any agreement to build a sports facility or concert venue on city-owned land while making operators pay taxes on the facilities.

The push for that referendum came in light of the agreement announced in December by the City of Austin and Anthony Precourt’s Precourt Sports Ventures for a new stadium at the city-owned McKalla Place in North Austin. Under the terms of the deal, PSV will privately finance the $225-million stadium, with the facility to fall under city ownership. PSV would not pay property taxes, but instead enter into a 20-year lease with the city for $1 for the first five years before rent payments jump to $550,000 beginning in year six.

As part of the process, the Austin City Council is expected to authorize a referendum on the ordinance outlined in the petition. That was recently stated by Adler, who said that the council will likely move forward with a November special election. While he believes the proposed ordinance could complicate the discussion of similar projects in the future, he feels that the Austin MLS stadium deal is too far along to be affected by the referendum’s outcome. More from

Mayor Steve Adler expects the council to not approve the ordinance and put it on the ballot in November. “I think it’s really bad policy,” Adler said.

Adler said this ordinance would not affect the city’s current deal with Precourt Sports Ventures for a stadium at McKalla Place in North Austin. “It’s too late for that,” Adler said. “Their approvals will all be obtained at that point in time, they could easily be in construction already at that point in time.”

He said this would affect any possible future deals, and could deter facilities from being built. “Because it’s an ordinance that’s designed to slow things down, to make things more expensive, to make things harder to do,” Adler said. “I’m concerned that a city like ours wont’ have the venues, the concert halls, the gathering spaces that we’re going to want a community, our community to have.”

A November election is expected because of a stipulation that prevents Austin from holding special elections within six months of each other. Special elections appeared before voters in November, which is expected to prevent this referendum from appearing on the May ballot. Austin FC is seeking to break ground on the new stadium later this year, and open the facility in 2021 to coincide with the club’s first season of MLS play.

Precourt originally sought to move Columbus Crew SC to Austin as early as this year, but ultimately an arrangement emerged that involved Jimmy and Dee Haslam–owners of the NFL’s Cleveland Browns–and the Columbus-based Edwards family buying into MLS and receiving operating rights to Columbus. Precourt, meawhile, remained an MLS investor and received rights to Austin, where Austin FC will begin play as the league’s 27th team.

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