Austin is getting a Major League Soccer team — or maybe not.
On Wednesday, the Austin City Council approved a deal to “negotiate and execute” an agreement for a $200 million soccer stadium on a city-owned plot in North Austin. The decision paves the way for Anthony Precourt, owner of the MLS franchise Columbus Crew, to begin relocating the Ohio-based team to Austin.
The final vote came after 10 months of deliberation and postponement, but several on the council still questioned the prudence of the deal. In addition to logistical concerns, such as plans for a 20,000-seat stadium with only 1,000 parking spaces, the city was offering special perks to Precourt including discounted rent, taxpayer reimbursement on certain construction costs, and complete exemption from property taxes.
Despite those factors, the measure was approved 7-4, with Mayor Adler calling it “the best deal of its kind in the country.”
Significant questions remain, however, one being if the Crew will even be able to relocate to Texas.
Precourt Sports Ventures (PSV) is currently tied up in a lawsuit in Ohio that could prevent the team from moving. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine tweeted his thoughts after the city council’s decision. “[PSV] and @MLS still have an obligation under Ohio law to provide notice and a reasonable opportunity for local investors to purchase the rights to keep the Crew in Columbus. Our lawsuit will continue.”
Who might be one potential investor candidate for the Crew? Ask Mark Wahlberg.
Earlier this week, the actor and businessman expressed interest when asked if he would consider purchasing the team. “You know what, I certainly would,” he said. “My dear friend Bob Kraft has not only the New England Patriots, but he owns the New England Revolution as well. I have a bunch of people who are involved. I think that may be something we need to discuss.”
Loyal Crew fans have also been rallying to keep their team in Columbus. A movement called #SaveTheCrew has garnered almost 6,000 followers on Twitter, and supporters have been actively working to prevent PSV’s attempted move. #SaveTheCrew released a statement on Wednesday, saying, “No matter what happens in Austin, TX, the future of Columbus Crew SC will be determined in Columbus, where we have over 11,000 pledges for 2019 season tickets, a vision for a new downtown stadium a short walk from the Ohio Statehouse, and over 350 businesses of both local and national caliber ready to step in and support this team. The only thing missing is new, local ownership.”
Following the city council’s decision, Precourt was asked about the pending Ohio lawsuit. “We’ll address all that in the very near future,” he said.