The City of Austin is considering bringing a Major League Soccer team to town, potentially at enormous taxpayer expense.
The Columbus Crew SC, an MLS team based in Ohio, has been interested in moving to Austin since last fall. On Thursday the city council will vote on whether to move forward in negotiations with the team, a critical decision with potentially hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars at stake.
The team’s owner, Precourt Sports Ventures, has proposed a deal to the city:
In exchange for PSV building the 20,000 seat stadium complex, which would include on-site affordable housing units and only a meager 1,300 parking spaces, the city council would provide an array of exclusive taxpayer-funded perks: $1 annual lease on the 24 acre tract of public land at McKalla Place, reimbursement for millions on numerous infrastructure and site preparation costs, insurance coverage on the $200 million stadium, and most of all—a complete and total exemption from property taxes.
Several on city council have put forward a resolution to open bidding on the land to other developers. McKalla Place, located just across from the Domain, has been appraised as high as $29.5 million and could be used for a variety of purposes.
However, if the council does agree to move forward in negotiations with PSV, and if they agree to any or all of the proposed perks, it would be an absolute disaster for Austin taxpayers.
First, a deal with any exclusive benefits for a company is another example of corporate welfare, a crooked favoritism where the city handpicks special businesses to receive taxpayer cash. The property tax giveaway alone would be the city’s largest in history.
Second, the city is in an affordability crisis that the council has helped create by constantly raising taxes and increasing spending. Those policies have driven residents out of their homes, and the last thing Austinites need is for the city to give exorbitant amounts of taxpayer cash to a soccer team.
That is not to say an MLS team wouldn’t benefit the city’s economy. It could. Austin is the largest city in the U.S. without a major professional sports team.
The problem is giving massive amounts of taxpayer money to bring them here. The notion that government handouts are necessary to attract companies here is demonstrably false—just ask Toyota and Mazda, who recently turned down an extra $700 million in perks from North Carolina and built in Alabama instead.
If an MLS team wants to move to Austin, let them. The city doesn’t need to give away millions of residents’ dollars to get one.