AUSTIN, Texas — Austin FC CEO Anthony Precourt, MLS President and Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott, and Austin Mayor Steve Adler came together under a literal big tent on Monday on the site of the club's planned $242 million stadium, set to open in April 2021, to celebrate its groundbreaking.
The event, which included city and county officials, front office staffers, local business dignitaries, and members of Austin FC’s first supporters’ group, was the latest in the recent series of Austin FC-hosted events reifying the club for Austinites. In the last two months, the front office has announced new head coach Josh Wolff and commemorated the onboarding of four investors who are adding Austin buy-in to the mix.
“This is really a vision coming to reality,” Precourt said in his remarks to the crowd. “I’ve got chills right now, my heart is pumping, it’s an exciting day. We’ve hit a number of milestones, but there’s no bigger one than a groundbreaking.”
Though Abbott and Adler joined Precourt in speaking at Monday’s groundbreaking event, it was perhaps the final speaker of the morning who best put into context what it means for Austin.
“We want a team, we want a stadium, and we want an experience that helps us grow the legend that is Austin, Texas, for all of us who call this place home,” said new Austin FC investor and “Minister of Culture” Matthew McConaughey, officially announced in the dual role two weeks ago.
Calling the stadium “the trunk of our tree,” the Hollywood star went on to talk about the role Austinites would have in building the team. “We’re going to have to complement each other, and if someone does something really well, it’s okay to compliment each other.”
For the supporters — who have already created a chant building on one of Austin’s favorite movie lines, “Alright, alright, alright,” from the beloved Wooderson character McConaughey played in his breakout movie Dazed and Confused — the day was a dream come true.
“Today was another exciting milestone in the journey of bringing professional soccer in Austin,” said Austin Anthem president Josh Babetski, who founded what is now a supporters’ group — which now counts up to 2,000 members — back in 2013, well before Austinites thought they’d have an MLS team. “I’m glad I could be there with so many of my fellow Austin FC supporters. The shovels were literally in the ground today – we’re looking forward to the stadium rising up on this site.”
“This groundbreaking felt celebratory on all fronts,” added Natalie Czimskey, who heads up the Ladybirds of Austin Anthem. “I was excited as an Austin FC supporter, a sports fan, and an Austinite.”
“Today was just another step in a dream becoming a reality,” added Anthem member Mike Torres. “I feel blessed to be a part of city history.”
Abbott began his remarks by noting, “It’s days like today that I realize what an incredible job I have, to be able to share a community celebrating this groundbreaking.” Abbott noted that Austin FC’s stadium will be the 21st soccer-specific stadium in the league, touting those types of arenas as “the environment fans deserve.”
In a post-ceremony interview, Abbott said he expects Austin to be an exemplary MLS city, noting that there are “so many things” that attracted Austin to MLS.
“The global outlook of this community, and the way people [in Austin] think about the world, matches up with our league,” he remarked. In addition to comment on Austin’s civic pride, he added, “You've got an international reputation for so many things, including music, obviously, and [the University of Texas]. We just think that the environment here for Major League Soccer is going to be tremendous.”
The stadium is envisioned a part of a larger 24-acre “soccer park,” with public spaces that Austinites will be able to utilize year-round. The stadium building is being privately financed by Austin FC under its agreement with the City of Austin forged a year ago; the city will technically own the stadium, being built on city-owned land near the Domain, a shopping center and burgeoning office center being touted as Austin’s “second downtown.”
Though the stadium is about 10 miles north of downtown proper, it’s within three miles of the geographic center of the Austin metro area, which includes suburbs that stretch nearly 30 miles north and south.
This summer, the club opened an Experience Center at its North Austin offices, giving prospective season ticket holders a VR tour. A giant canopy roof designed to give coverage to all 20,500 seats, resembling an aircraft wing, will be the stadium’s primary distinguishing feature. The club plans for a grass playing surface, and they’re already creating plans for protecting the playing surface when the stadium is converted from soccer venue to live music venue, with the supporters’ section — likely to be a safe standing zone — converting to a stage.
Austin fans will be able to check on the progress of the new stadium via a construction cam the club installed today. Stadium design lead Jonathan Emmett from Gensler says the intention is to keep it in one fixed location from start to finish. There’s already one person who knows he’ll keep an eye on it.
“I’m going to check it out every day,” Precourt promised.