Recently Austin FC released a statement on March 25th announcing that they have chosen a Construction Manager for the stadium project at McKalla Place: Austin Commercial.
Ironically, Austin Commercial is not an Austin-based company, but we like the name, regardless. The Dallas-based company is not a stranger to building here and has had an office in Austin for over 30 years. Austin Commercial has an impressive portfolio of projects under their belt including the American Airlines Center, Austin-Bergstrom Airport, Baylor McLane Stadium, Long Center for the Performing Arts and Austin City Limits.
Their least impressive work is in Oklahoma, where they completed the bowl of a football stadium for a university that dresses up in an ugly crimson color on game days. I can understand why they wouldn’t mention that here in Austin.
The press release also included a higher price tag for the construction project, now estimated to cost a whopping $240,000,000. I added the zeros because it’s a lot of money. This project is now 40 million dollars more than what Anthony Precourt originally told the Austin City Council members, and to make things sweeter, he’s picking up the bill and handing it over to this city.
Texas is hot, really hot. Luckily for Austinites, the Texas capital is nestled between the Highland Lakes system, which means we get to cool off in the water during those summer months (beware of zebra mussels). The rest of the year is pretty temperate, but the glaring sun still calls for sunglasses.
For the other two MLS teams situated in Texas, this poses a real problem, and changes are being made after the front offices finally realized, they play in Texas. Recently, FC Dallas added a sunshade inside Toyota Stadium during their construction of the National Soccer Hall of Fame, which opened in 2018. The Houston Dynamo will be adding a couple of Big Ass Fans under their roof to cool off spectators.
What is Austin FC doing to combat the sun? Building a ‘Big ass’ canopy. In the conceptual renderings, what looked like a wing-shaped canopy seemed plenty big, but not big enough for Austin FC CEO Anthony Precourt, who told the architects at Gensler to make it bigger. Once completed, the structure will be the second largest canopy structure in MLS according to a recent Statesman article, written by Chris Bils after his interview with Austin FC President Andy Loughnane, behind only Red Bull Arena in New Jersey, which is a fully enclosed stadium. Bils also writes that the shade structure will be two times larger than that of BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, and five times larger than Toyota Stadium in Frisco.
According to a Gantt Chart attached to the City of Austin Lease Agreement, all final design development documents are scheduled to hit the desk of Austin FC leadership in May, and we should see a much larger canopy in those renderings. The request from Anthony Precourt doesn’t come cheap, adding an additional $25 million to the estimated total cost of the stadium.
I was scrolling through some construction documents on the Austin Build+Connect website and Imagine my surprise when I happened to run across a rezoning application for a project titled Austin FC (what a coincidence). Looking through the application I found a letter that struck my attention.
Richard Suttle from Armbrust and Brown, PLLC sent a letter asking for the land at McKalla Place to be rezoned to allow for “an approximate 22,000-seat soccer stadium”. This news was the first hint of any increase in capacity from the original design, which called for seating around ~20,000.
In the statement on March 25th, and what Andy Loughnane later clarified during a Meet and Greet at an Austin Anthem favorite soccer bar Haymaker, the stadium at present will have enough seating for 20,500 fans, with an ability to expand beyond that number later down the road. Mas Zanates
Austin FC and party now has to go back into city council to get their zoning request approved. Andy Loughnane said during the Meet and Greet, that nothing has gotten in the way of Austin FC being ready to start play in 2021 at our brand new stadium, so far. It seems that we added more soccer advocates to the dais, so the next few months should seem to float by with relative ease, unless council member Leslie Pool, the unsuccessful vocal leader behind not building a stadium in her district, decides to interfere on a project that was decided back in August. You lost this one, Leslie, let it go.
According to the timeline laid out by CAA Icon, we’re reaching the end of a Design Development project phase and 100% of Design Development documents should be delivered to the Austin FC staff by May 17th. A review of those documents brings us into June, at which point the architects at Gensler will start working on Construction documents and work packages.