Columbus Crew owners clear hurdle on Austin move after stadium vote

Rendering of potential MLS stadium at McKalla Place in Austin, Texas. Gensler, TBG and CAA ICON

Precourt Sports Ventures has cleared a major hurdle in its bid to move the Columbus Crew to Austin, Texas.

The Austin City Council voted 7-4 to approve a term sheet agreed to by the city and PSV, one that outlines details for a $200 million, 20,000-seat stadium to be built at McKalla Place, a city-owned 24-acre site in north Austin.

The vote authorizes the negotiation and execution of agreements with PSV for construction, lease, and occupancy of the venue with the goal of completing construction in time for the 2021 MLS season.

"Precourt Sports Ventures [PSV] is extremely pleased that Austin City Council has voted to authorize negotiations and execution of agreements with PSV for a privately funded Major League Soccer [MLS] stadium and park at McKalla Place," PSV said in a statement. "We wish to express our gratitude to the Austin City Council for passing today's momentous resolutions. We thank council for acknowledging the groundswell of support to help bring MLS to Austin."

The fight to keep the Crew in Columbus is by no means over. The office of Ohio attorney general Mike DeWine, in conjunction with the city of Columbus, is suing PSV under the so-called Modell law -- named after Art Modell, who moved the Browns out of Cleveland after the 1995 season -- that requires sports teams that have received state funding to provide six months notice of any intention to relocate and allow local investors the option of acquiring the team.

DeWine's office said via Twitter: "Precourt Sports Ventures 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. #SaveTheCrew"

Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther said in a series of tweets: "Major League Soccer chose Columbus as the home of the Crew SC. We were the first city in the U.S. to build a soccer-specific stadium that hosted hundreds of games and international soccer competitions. When MLS and PSV indicated they wanted a downtown sports stadium, we entered into negotiations in good faith, rallying private investors and public support -- including commitments for 10,000 season ticket holders for 2019 -- to develop a comprehensive stadium plan.

"Unfortunately, MLS and PSV have not operated with the same intentions. The McKalla Place site proposal in Austin, for example, sits more than 10 miles from the city's center -- three times the distance between the Columbus Crew's current stadium and downtown.

"Clearly, the decision to move Crew SC to Austin was made long before today's vote in Texas, with no consideration to the history of the team or the integrity of soccer in the U.S. We will continue our fight to keep the Crew where it belongs -- in Columbus."

PSV first announced its intention to explore relocating to Austin 10 months ago, with the aim of moving in time for the 2019 season. Since then, it has been working toward securing the land needed for a potential stadium and has been working toward the McKalla Place site for the last several months.

"Precourt Sports Ventures has been clear that identifying and working toward a solution for the sustainability and viability of this Club has not been merely an option or goal, but in fact a necessity to achieve long-term stability and success in Major League Soccer," a Crew spokesperson said in a prepared statement. "As we have stated before, normal business operations continue in Columbus for 2018, and Crew SC remains focused on winning an MLS Cup title."

The term sheet went through numerous revisions as the Austin City Council waded through a list of proposed amendments. The two sides recently agreed on a non-relocation clause that would require PSV to pay $1 million for each year remaining on the lease should the team move from Austin.

An amendment to increase the rent from $550,000 to $958,720 per year was defeated. Another amendment increased the financial penalty to $6 million should PSV renege on a deal to pay Cap Metro, the city's transportation authority, $3 million over 15 years.