After announcing which construction manager would build Austin FC's soccer haven in 2019, the league's 27th franchise inches closer to realizing their MLS dream in 2021.
Unlike a handful of expansion franchises in years past, Austin will begin their MLS existence in their new stadium rather than a temporary home. For Austin FC president Andy Loughnane, that much was non-negotiable.
“The opportunity to begin a franchise is afforded to you but only once," Loughnane told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday. "We believe, firmly, that the two-year ramp time to build our infrastructure, including staff and stadium, is an important decision. It’s one that we believe will ultimately allow us to fulfill our vision of having a world-class facility and a world-class team.”
The privately funded, downtown 20,500-seat stadium project, which will also be an entertainment and multi-purpose event venue for the city, drew rave reviews when renderings were first released.
There have been a few tweaks to the original plans, which isn't uncommon, as the club continues to become more and more entwined with their city.
“As our design becomes more refined, we are consciously making decisions to accommodate our design principles," Loughnane said. "We’re continuously enhancing our ability to build a fan-centric stadium. We’re continuously advancing our objective to have a tech-forward stadium. We’re consistently trying to find ways to be more Austin-centric, whether that’s in the textures and finishes in the stadium, to our ability to incorporate music and technology into the fabric of the stadium.”
The stadium project initially came with a cost expectation between $200-225 million. Since the stadium announcement in December, the latest estimates are closer to $240 million.
Why the jump?
“It’s a reflection of Austin FC’s commitment to deliver the city of Austin a world-class facility that balances Austin’s love of outdoor spaces alongside the need to create shade protection," Loughnane explained. "We will have the second-largest canopy structure in soccer-specific stadiums in Major League Soccer.”
Now that a construction manager has been selected, their timeline is more defined. Loughnane expects to break ground at McKalla Place in September, complete construction within 18 months and be ready for Austin FC's home MLS debut in Spring of 2021.
It's been an immersive three months for Loughnane, who was officially appointed club president in January. He previously served as Columbus Crew SC’s president of business operations and will oversee Austin FC’s front-office operations, including the stadium.
But the experience has been gratifying.
“(My first few months have) been incredibly busy, incredibly adrenaline-filled and incredibly fulfilling," Loughnane said. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. ... We’ve got an incredible amount of objectives ahead of us that need to be fulfilled, we all of this common vision to work together to complete our objectives.”