sports 4 days ago

Columbus Crew owners offer sketch of potential Austin soccer stadium

Austin American-Statesman — Kevin Lyttle Austin American-Statesman

Dec. 07--If Austin signs off on a privately financed stadium on city parkland near downtown, the owners of a Major League Soccer team see a facility that would have a small geographic footprint yet make a giant positive impact on the community.

Precourt Sports Ventures, which operates Columbus Crew SC and is exploring a move to Austin, told the American-Statesman on Tuesday that finding the right stadium site remains the critical piece of the puzzle and that Butler Shores Metropolitan Park is the spot to beat.

The group rolled out a preliminary rendering of a 20,000-seat stadium tightly tucked into the western half of well-worn Butler Shores, leaving some parkland to the east.

"We want to improve it as a park site and play soccer matches there as well," said PSV president Dave Greeley. "We could add a community plaza, and the hike-and-bike trail actually becomes more accessible from different vantage points around the stadium. This is a potential enhancement of the site through private investment."

City staff will present an inventory of potential stadium sites next week, to be discussed at the Dec. 14 City Council meeting.

"Of the ones we know so far, the location at 200 South Lamar checks all the boxes," said Richard Suttle, an Austin MLS lobbyist working for PSV. "We'll all anxiously await the city's report. The soccer team wants to be downtown, and I don't know many other tracts available with that kind of setting."

The Precourt group rattled off several ideas to ease the strain on the neighborhood, while presenting Austin with its first major league sports franchise in what they say would be a city-owned, club-run stadium costing upwards of $200 million. Among them:

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No on-site parking. Greeley noted there are 13,000 parking spots within a 20-minute walk of the site. He said the new 25,500-seat MLS stadium in Orlando has only 65 on-site parking places. "When you consider shuttles, ride sharing, biking, walking, maybe a water taxi, it can be done and it is being done in other cities like Portland, too," Greeley said.

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Sunken stadium. Suttle said the stadium would be built 15 to 20 feet into the ground so that the pitch has a margin above the water table yet allows for a structure that has the lowest possible ground-level presence. He said the acoustics of that setup would help contain the noise and light levels within the bowl while also keeping open views of the city skyline.

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Late starts. Greeley suggested 8 p.m. starts to lessen the amount of rush-hour arrivals and to beat the heat. Soccer matches are confined to two hours. He also pointed out most games are on weekends.

Suttle said if Butler Shores becomes the choice, PSV would work with the South Austin Little League, which has three fields there, to find a suitable new home.

PSV realizes the lack of on-site parking will raise plenty of eyebrows.

"We'll create robust park-and-ride shuttles from our own training facility and other locations around town," Suttle said. "We intend to explore a number of partnerships, including with Capital Metro."

Alejandro Ruelas, managing partner at advertising agency LatinWorks and a supporter of MLS coming to Austin, does not see a major parking issue.

"People would get to the stadium the same way they get downtown to work," Ruelas said. "They know where to park and how to get around.

"When you go around the world, many soccer stadiums do not have parking. Fans arrive in so many different ways. After the game, they go to bars and restaurants. It's the culture of soccer and Austin will adopt it when we have a major league team."

The stadium rendering isn't patterned after any particular existing venue.

"With this preliminary concept, the seating bowl and building have been designed so that each side would feel like its own neighborhood with unique characteristics and amenities," Greeley said. "It's the traditional English and European models built on parkland, intimate and fitting into the neighborhood, not overwhelming it. Open and accessible.

"We want a visual connection to Austin's skyline. With this site, when you see a game on TV, you'll know exactly what city the game is being played."

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