The Austin City Council is moving closer to a deal with a major league soccer team, and it could cost taxpayers millions.
Around 4:00 a.m. Friday morning, the city council voted to proceed in negotiations with Precourt Sports Ventures, the owner of the MLS team Columbus Crew SC. The 9-0 vote, with council members Ora Houston and Ellen Troxclair off the dais, came after a marathon meeting that lasted 18 hours, save breaks for lunch and dinner.
The decision follows six months of studies determining whether McKalla Place, a 24-acre city owned tract located across from the Domain, would be a suitable site for a soccer stadium. Though the city will now move forward in negotiations with PSV, the council also approved a resolution to solicit other developers’ proposals for the land. The city council is expected to make a final selection on August 9.
Taxpayers have reason to be concerned about negotiations with PSV. The company has put forth proposals to the city in an effort to get special taxpayer-funded perks, including having taxpayers pay for various infrastructure costs and insurance on the $200 million stadium, as well as a $1 annual lease on the $29.5 million property. Additionally, the stadium would be completely exempt from any and all property taxes.
If the city agrees to the handouts PSV has requested, it will cost taxpayers millions.
Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo didn’t appear to be too worried about the idea. “We should treat this like any other economic incentives deal,” she said. “We have put investment in with our public land and we should treat it like any other economic incentives. Those community benefits really need to outweigh the public investment. We’re going to look very close at this arrangement and have a very clear understanding from our staff about the property taxes that we’d be forgoing.”
The problem is, there is absolutely no reason why the city needs to shell out millions of taxpayer dollars for a soccer team. Doing so is crooked favoritism—using the public’s money to give special perks to a politically-connected business. Other businesses don’t receive these exclusive benefits, yet they still move to Austin at an increasing rate.
The decision arrives in the wake of the council also approving a $925 million bond package that includes $250 million for government-owned affordable housing units.