MLS to Austin: Crew's Precourt responds amid concerns about prospects of move

A day after Bobby Epstein, the owner of the USL Austin expansion team, confirmed his group was going ahead with plans to begin in 2019 amid concerns that Crew SC's contemplated move from Columbus to Austin might not take place after all, Crew SC investor-operator Anthony Precourt issued a public comment -- his first since October -- on the ongoing search for a stadium site.

Among the highlights:

-- Precourt Sports Ventures was continuing to look at city-owned land but it is also exploring privately held parcels.

-- Precourt singled out the due diligence done on the preferred parkland site, Butler Shores, which was withdrawn from a list of potential sites at the end of January because of community opposition to the stadium.

-- He is still trying to sell Austin on the idea that a stadium would contribute to the broader social and economic good of the city.

-- He said he wished process went quicker but also reiterated that PSV would not move to Austin if the right site was not identified.

Precourt did say anything about what it would take to stay in Columbus or a timeframe for a move to Austin. With the 2018 MLS season about to begin and no stadium solution in sight in Austin, a move for 2019 appears to be a long shot.

The statement:

“Precourt Sports Ventures continues to work with the Austin community to secure an appropriate urban core site for a soccer-specific stadium that will serve as the home of Austin’s first major league professional sports franchise. We announced our serious interest to work with Austin prior to the start of the 2017 playoffs, an announcement that embodied risk, urgency, and a genuine desire to work with Austin to find the right site.

“With the right site, we can build a world-class, privately financed $200 million soccer park and grounds. As we have said from the onset of this exploratory process, a location in the vibrant urban core where people live, work, and play is of paramount importance. This stadium location is a critical driver to the club’s long-term success.

“Based on the direction of the City of Austin Council and staff, we are conducting due diligence on a variety of sites, including city-owned parkland and city-owned land (non-parkland) suggested by the City on December 14, 2017 (Council Resolution No. 20171109-046). Independently, we also continue to explore a select list of privately held parcels.

“The initial list of sites provided by the city contains a variety of options, and we continue to carefully analyze each site recommended by the City. We started the process in earnest with Butler Shores because we were given early indications from city leaders that it is a viable, under-utilized site.

“Precourt Sports Ventures’ extensive due diligence work on the Butler Shores site included architectural renderings, landscape design, light, sound, parking, traffic and engineering studies. Understanding that parkland is a treasured community asset, and the creation of a successful soccer park and grounds within the landscape of parkland is a responsibility we take seriously, we also began to develop a package of community benefits tied to the creation of a soccer park on parkland. Based on our analysis, a public-private partnership of this nature could deliver community benefits in excess of $400 million in the club’s first 25 years, in the form of community investments, park improvements, soccer wellness and programming, wages and construction services, among others. If an MLS club were to play at a soccer park and grounds on city-owned parkland, the Austin community would also benefit from the broader social and economic impact. We encourage the City of Austin to independently verify this.

“We are still in the process of identifying the right stadium site in Austin, TX. We recognize some would prefer if this process were to move faster, however we believe that ultimately there is value in being thorough as opposed to being fast. And although we are willing to dedicate significant time and expense in this effort, we are not in a position to move to Austin if the right site is not identified.

“Additionally, we have engaged and hired a team of experts to help bring an Austin team to life, including: JP Morgan for financial expertise; Armbrust & Brown for legal and real estate counsel; CAA/ICON for project management oversight and feasibility; Gensler for sports architecture and design; Elizabeth Christian Public Relations for local media relations; two local branding and advertising agencies; local political advisors and consultants; among others.

“As we continue a dialogue with Austin about possible locations for a soccer facility in Austin’s urban core, we welcome new ideas and community input before any further decisions are made or actions are taken.

“Elected officials and community leaders, as well as thousands of citizens, have repeatedly stated that they support the concept of establishing a home for Major League Soccer in Austin. We are hopeful that, if in the context of this conversation the best site is either parkland or city-owned land, the will of the people, across a spectrum of perspectives and districts, would be heard.”

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