AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Another day, another scheduled vote on the future of pro soccer in Texas and Ohio.
The Austin City Council is scheduled to decide Wednesday whether to move ahead with a stadium plan that could prompt Major League Soccer’s Columbus Crew to leave its home city after 22 years.
Austin delayed the vote a week, but is expected to make a decision whether to enter formal and final negotiations with Crew owner Anthony Precourt.
Precourt bought the Crew in 2013 and has been pushing for a move to Austin since 2017. If successful, the move would uproot a bedrock MLS franchise and give the league its third Texas team. The Houston Dynamo and FC Dallas are the others.
The Austin metropolitan area has just over 2 million people and remains the largest city in the country without a major sports franchise
The vote is expected to be close among the 11 council members. The stadium plan is strongly supported by Austin Mayor Steven Adler, but some council members have resisted giving Precourt 24 acres to build a privately funded, 20,000-seat stadium. Critics call it a giveaway by Texas’ capital city and argue Austin could better use the space for parkland or affordable housing.
Precourt initially wanted downtown space for a picturesque venue on the river. Austin refused to make such a deal and instead has considered a tract of land near new retail and condominium developments north of downtown.
Some Columbus fans are fighting to keep their team at home. The fan group Save the Crew has gathered thousands of future ticket pledges and produced its own design for a potential new stadium in downtown Columbus, while hoping new investors will offer to buy the Crew.
Precourt also faces a lawsuit from the state and city seeking to block the move. It cites an Ohio law that owners of teams that use tax-supported facilities and accept state financial assistance must give at least six months’ notice and allow local investors the chance to buy the team. The law was enacted after the NFL’s Cleveland Browns moved to Baltimore in 1996.