The MLS deal could have been worse

Mapfre Stadium, home of the team Council just voted to steal from Columbus. Image: Wikimedia Commons

This is what I wrote in April about the prospect of an MLS team in Austin:

Whatever Precourt asks, the city needs to demand something significant in return. If what the club’s offering is simply the promise of future economic stimulus, that’s a bad deal, pure and simple, and we’ve got decades of research backing this conclusion.

So did the city follow my orders? It’s hard to say. The mayor has said that this was a much better deal than most others that cities sign with sports teams. That’s sort of like saying you’re much more reasonable than most other Republican presidential candidates.

But in all seriousness, it is true that Council could have given up far, far more than it did. I am thankful that the local political climate was such that city leaders felt pressure to extract community benefits from the team. Usually it’s the team that’s negotiating to extract benefits from the community.

The $550,000/year in rent for the property seems really low. But it’s hard for me to decide if the 130 units of affordable housing (and what kind of units are we talking about here?) that the team will fund and the $3.67 million it will pay to Cap Metro for transit improvements are sufficient mitigating factors.

It’s disingenuous, however, that some of the most ardent MLS opponents were claiming that the stadium amounted to $90-175 million in lost property tax revenue. That revenue only would have been generated if we had allowed that property to become an enormous commercial/residential development. And that’s exactly the kind of development that many of the ardent MLS opponents have spent their political careers fighting against. The great Julio Gonzalez explains:

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If it had been between a Liga MX team and a mixed-use development, I probably would have opted for futbol. But an MLS team –– I’d rather have housing, a grocery store, and some tax revenue.


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