AUSTIN - Excitement over the Crew potentially becoming the first professional sports team in Austin is clear. Where they’ll play if a move is finalized is not.
But this week, a potential preferred location was revealed: Butler Shores Metropolitan Park at 200 South Lamar Boulevard.
“It's a good location, it's great ability to be served by shuttles, great pedestrian walk-up. You can ride your bike to it. There's lots of different ways to get to it,” explained Richard Suttle, a local attorney working for Precourt Sports Ventures, the Crew’s ownership, in trying to find a stadium site.
Suttle is a native Austinite who grew up playing baseball at this very field.
“Any place we go, we don’t want to be intrusive, and we don’t want to be disruptive,” Suttle said.
Currently, little league and softball games take place there, with others using the park to run, bike and walk their dogs.
“I grew up here. And this is the first thing that I actually have ever been really excited about. It's something that Austinites get to benefit from, Austinites get to enjoy,” explained Suttle.
During a one-on-one interview with KVUE in October, Crew owner Anthony Precourt laid out his vision for a stadium.
“Stadiums and teams flourish in the urban core. So we say downtown or urban core. We want to be in a vibrant part of town,” said Precourt.
Outside of the location, supporters of the plan pointed to the current state of the park -- which includes several graffiti markings.
“It could use some help. One of the things that we’re excited about MLS coming to Austin is that it might provide an opportunity for improvements to our various park facilities in Austin,” said Suttle.
However, resistance to this stadium location lingers.
“I think it’s got to be one of the worst locations you can choose in the area, because most of my co-workers, with their kids who come, and would be very interested in watching soccer games, live out in the suburbs. And I don’t know where, between getting here and parking here, I think it would be a fairly difficult location,” explained Kristin McCollam, who said she comes to the park three to four times a day to walk her dog, Brody.
McCollam dismissed the presence of graffiti as being unique to Butler, saying it’s prevalent throughout the city. As for her concerns, she’s focused on those who live in the area.
“Things like congestion and people coming in and out. There's sound issues, there's light issues. I mean over 1,000 people live right on this street. We're talking about having to look at that,” said McCollam.
Environmentalists have their own concerns over the potential site.
“We need to be buying more parkland and expanding our public parks, not shrinking them and handing them out to private, for-profit enterprises,” explained Bill Bunch, the executive director of Save Our Springs Alliance, a non-profit advocacy group.
Bunch said Crew ownership should focus on private property to build the stadium.
“I agree the ball fields may be underutilized, but if that’s the case, then we should take them out and open it up to public play areas, picnics, park usage because it’s an incredible place that we have way too few of in this city,” explained Bunch.
Bunch believed that if it comes to a vote, voters would not support the planned site.
“You don’t need a beautiful lakeside park, or Creekside park, for soccer,” said Bunch.
Besides the stadium, Suttle said ownership would build soccer fields for municipal use, which he believed would impact more people than the current ball fields.
Ownership is also trying to address concerns by offering some possible solutions. Those include no on-site parking, a playing field built 15 to 20 feet into the ground to ease the noise, and late starts for games in an effort to try and lessen the amount of rush-hour traffic.
Suttle noted many MLS stadiums have flourished without an expansive parking lot, using his trip to a Portland Timbers game as an example.
Zilker Park is not being considered as an option, but ownership is evaluating other areas in the city.
Precourt has pledged to privately fund the stadium.
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