I really can’t make sense of what’s going on with the Columbus Crew. Apparently somebody else might buy them and keep them in Columbus. And then we’ll get an expansion team. Someway, somehow, though, Austin will get a third-rate professional sports team.
IndyAustin, with the help of some donors who have a financial interest in halting the construction of a new soccer stadium, is gathering signatures to try to annul the stadium deal approved by Council in August. The petition calls for voter approval and a super-majority support on Council before the city can give away public land to a for-profit business.
I assume that valued AustinPolitics.NET reader Linda Curtis will succeed in gathering the necessary signatures because a) she has the time and money to do it and b) 30,000 signatures is nuthin. People will sign anything to get you out of their face.
So assuming the proposed ordinance went into effect, the stadium deal would have to clear two bars. It would need support from nine of 11 Council members and then be approved via referendum by voters.
It didn’t get super-majority support from the current Council, but two of the four CMs who voted against are retiring, and I think they’re relatively likely to be replaced by people who would either support the deal or could be convinced to support it. Furthermore, I think if a CM is on the fence they would be inclined to vote yes and “let the people decide” then be the deciding vote that stops the deal in its tracks.
The next question: Would Austin voters approve the deal? I really have no idea. It really depends how both sides run the campaign. A few thoughts though:
A) Most people don’t care whether an MLS team comes to town. It’s the MLS. It’s not even the most popular soccer league in the U.S. (that honor goes to Liga MX).
B) Thankfully, people are increasingly wary of subsidies to professional sports teams, but the Austin deal is nowhere near as bad as many other recent stadium deals. The city isn’t putting down any money, but rather forgoing future property tax revenue, some of which the MLS team will offset by investments in transit, on-site affordable housing etc.
C) It is misleading when deal opponents argue that we are forfeiting hundreds of millions in property tax revenue … that revenue would have only materialized if the city had allowed the land to be developed into exactly the type of development that those opposing the stadium tend to fight against tooth-and-nail.
D) I think the referendum vote would depend largely on how well the pro-MLS side argues that the stadium deal does not constitute a large corporate giveaway.