A group opposed to the deal to build a Major League Soccer stadium on city-owned land in North Austin filed a petition Thursday that could make the agreement eligible for a vote.
The group, Friends of McKalla Place, announced in a news release that it has filed a petition with 29,000 signatures at City Hall. If enough of those signatures are verified, it would require the city to either adopt the petition’s proposed ordinance or possibly hold an election on the stadium.
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.
>> Video | MLS to Austin: McKalla Place soccer stadium renderings released
The city’s contract with Precourt Sports Ventures is for a 20,000-seat stadium at the McKalla Place tract near the Domain that would be the home of the Austin FC. In exchange for building the stadium, Precourt Sports Ventures would rent the land from the city at below-market rates and avoid paying property taxes.
“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 stadium deal calls for a $225 million venue to be built on the city-owned 22-acre tract on McKalla Place, on-site affordable housing and the allocation of $3.64 million for Capital Metro transit facilities.
At the time of the contract’s signing, Mayor Steve Adler lauded the deal as a major win for Austin that would unite the city at the soccer pitch. He praised the contract as the “best such deal for a major league team that anybody has seen.”
That deal could now be in jeopardy. The contract allows PSV to cancel the contract if any voter referendum or initiative is passed that Precourt Sports Ventures determines would undermine the project.