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The 15 most populous cities in the United States are New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Diego, Dallas, San Jose, Austin, Jacksonville, San Francisco, Indianapolis and Columbus.
But one of these cities doesn’t have what the other 14 proudly boast: a professional sports organization.
Austin, Texas, is the only city in the top 15 – and one of just four in the top 30 – without a pro sports organization. By contrast, New York City and Los Angeles have 11 pro franchises each.
“It’s pretty frustrating being the largest city in the nation without a pro team,” says Austin resident Kevin Fan, who follows Houston’s pro teams. “I would be extremely excited if Austin got a pro team. I’d go to games, especially basketball and baseball.”
To add insult to absence, the city with a population of more than 983,000 is home to the ninth-largest sports stadium in the world. Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on the campus of the University of Texas can hold a whopping 100,119 people. Only Ohio Stadium in Columbus ranks higher (104,944) among facilities located in the top 15 most populous US cities.
And it’s not as if they don’t like their sports in Austin. The city has a litany of amateur organizations: Texas Stars (American Hockey League), Austin Spurs (NBA D-League), Austin Sol (American Ultimate Disc League), Austin Outlaws (Women’s Football Alliance), Austin Huns (Texas Rugby Union), and the nearby Round Rock Express (AAA, Pacific Coast League). The University of Texas also brought in $182.1 million in revenue from its athletic department in 2017 – the most of any college in the country.
The demand certainly exists in the city, but residents are forced to drive more than an hour to San Antonio, two and a half hours to Houston, or nearly three hours to Dallas to quench their pro-sports thirst.
It appears, however, that Austin may be closer than ever to acquiring a professional sports organization.
In August 2018, Austin City Council approved a deal for a Major League Soccer (MLS) stadium near McKalla Place. According to Forbes, the Council voted 7-4 in favor of the deal, but the council member from the area in which the stadium will be built (Leslie Pool) voted against it, believing the city was “giving away too much” by allowing developers Precourt Sports Ventures (PSV) to rent the land for $550,000 per year after five years and holding penalties at $6 million if PSV reneges on its deal to pay for the stadium’s estimated $200 million in costs.
“We wish to express our gratitude to the Austin City Council for passing today’s momentous resolutions. We thank council for acknowledging the groundswell of support to help bring MLS to Austin,” PSV said in a statement after the vote.
Anthony Precourt, the CEO of PSV, is also the owner of the Columbus Crew, one of the original MLS franchises. Precourt stated in October 2017 that he intended to relocate the organization from Ohio to Austin in 2019 if a new stadium in downtown Columbus is not built. In August 2018, PSV even went as far as to unveil a name and badge for the new potential MLS club, Austin FC.
However, Crew fans aren’t willing to let their franchise go so easily. Save The Crew, an advocacy group created to keep the organization in Columbus, is urging supporters to do anything in their power to prevent the relocation to Texas.
The potential PSV move even resulted in a day in court in September 2018, but no ruling was made. “This case is proceeding well, and it will continue,” said Judge Jeffrey M Brown.