AUSTIN, Texas — It’s been an encouraging week for Austin FC and its growing contingent of fans.
On Monday, the club released the latest round of renderings for its planned 20,500-seat stadium in Austin’s Domain neighborhood, set to break ground later this summer and open by the start of the 2021 Major League Soccer season. And on Wednesday, Austin FC began taking refundable season-ticket deposits for the inaugural season, and was greatly buoyed by the response.
The club noted in a statement Thursday that that it had recorded deposits for more than 30,000 seats; it characterized the first-day flurry of reservations as “establish[ing] a new MLS record for the largest number of membership deposits placed in a single day in the history of the league.”
While the club hasn’t released the actual number of first-day depositors, each was able to express intent for anywhere from one to eight season tickets, putting down either $50 for general seating (including a planned safe-standing supporters’ section in the stadium’s south end) or $100 for premium seating.
On Friday morning, Austin FC president Andy Loughnane reported that interest continued into the second day of deposit availability, with the number of total deposits growing beyond the impressive first-day mark.
“Although we can’t take it for granted, we do anticipate a sold-out environment in Year One and beyond,” Loughnane said — noting that a select number of individual game-day tickets will be available to fans, regardless of the demand for season tickets. At an open-house event to discuss the new stadium in April, Loughnane said the stadium could be expandable to 22,500 in its current design iteration, though he anticipated the stadium would open at 20,500 and the club would evaluate whether to expand at the conclusion of the inaugural season.
Interest in the team has been developing throughout central Texas since Austin FC and Precourt Sports Ventures chief executive officer Anthony Precourt announced the possibility of MLS coming to Austin in October 2017.
A spirited public debate resulted in the Austin City Council partnering with Precourt on a stadium plan in August 2018 and helped the Austin Anthem supporters’ group grow its ranks as members rallied at public city council meetings that stretched to as late as 4 a.m.
The official announcement of Austin FC becoming MLS’s 27th team in January, on the heels of Precourt selling his Columbus Crew investor-operator rights to Ohio-based owners, put Austin on notice that its first major pro sports franchise was arriving.
More recent developments, such as the launch of Austin FC’s academy and its alliance with St. David’s HealthCare — Austin FC’s first major corporate sponsor — have further reified the team’s arrival.
Though Austin FC has previously released renderings, the latest round on Monday included new representation of the large canopy roof that will protect fans from the elements and distinguish the stadium from other MLS arenas, and depictions of suites and lounge areas that will be available to premium ticket holders. The timing of the latest rendering release, just 48 hours before the club opened up the deposit process, was not accidental.
“The specific renderings were shared with two thoughts in mind,” Loughnane said. “We had moved through the design phase to the point where we’d reached a level of comfort with the design direction, materials, features and benefits. Also, we wanted to generate interest in the stadium and the stadium design in advance of the deposit platform launching. We’re extremely proud of the stadium, stadium design and the direction that we’re headed. It’s exciting to be able to share that.”
Design with supporters in mind
Austin FC is working with Gensler principal and design director Jonathan Emmett on the stadium design, and two weeks ago, they meet with a group of supporters to get input on what they wanted to see in the supporters’ section. On his previous MLS project, Banc of California Stadium, Emmett similarly worked with Los Angeles FC and its supporters.
Loughnane says that meeting is merely the latest in a series of discussions the club has had with supporters, and some of their previous feedback found its way into the latest round of renderings. (A number of supporters, reviewing the latest images, were particularly delighted to see a taco truck stationed within the supporters’ section bar.)
Loughnane says more discussions with those supporters are forthcoming, noting that the most recent round of talks took them beyond entry points to the stadium and food and beverage locations.
“The feedback was incredibly valuable,” Loughnane said, “largely for the supporters in terms of creating ideation around the traditions that might be established over time.”
“Throughout this process, Austin FC has been listening to supporters,” said Anthem spokesperson Jeremiah Bentley. “The design workshop was an incredible opportunity to give meaningful input and feedback. It was clear that they were really listening and looking to create a unique and meaningful fan experience, and not just checking the box to say that they did community outreach.”