Just days before its final home match, ownership of United Soccer League professional team Austin Bold FC reportedly told players and staff that the team would be relocating to Fort Worth, according to a report from The Striker Texas.
Former Austin Bold general manager and Striker co-founder Roberto Silva reported the news via Twitter Tuesday and said that the team would leave Circuit of the Americas at the end of the season but may have to wait a year depending on construction in their new home city.
Club sources say the @AustinBoldFC owner informed players and staff this morning that the team is not playing after this season. The move to Fort Worth is happening but depends on stadium construction, so it may not happen next year. More soon at @TheStrikerTexas
— Roberto Silva (@rsilvasoccer) October 26, 2021
News first broke of the team's desire to head to greener pastures in August when The Striker's Mark Bay said credible sources confirmed the team's plans to head north under new ownership.
Austin Bold FC are likely to relocate to Fort Worth following the conclusion of the 2021 @USLChampionship season. New ownership already lined up.
— Mark Bay (@mchbay) August 12, 2021
A day later, the United Soccer League franchise announced via Twitter that it was "exploring several options," citing MLS team Austin FC's first-year success and insinuating that Austin is not big enough for both professional sports franchises.
"We love the Austin soccer community and the sport, and are pleased to see it grow," the statement read. "We had hoped there is room for two teams to succeed in the market, but also need to make a decision that's best for the future of the team."
Official statement from Austin Bold FC: pic.twitter.com/H7xmfUfszR
— Austin Bold FC (@AustinBoldFC) August 12, 2021
The team ranks 25th of the 29 USL teams in attendance this season, according to Soccer Stadium Digest. Austin Bold has averaged 971 attendees this season, down from 2,395 in its inaugural USL season in 2019.
The scene is a stark contrast from Austin FC's Q2 Stadium, where 20,500 fans regularly pack the brand-new stadium week after week and hundreds travel in Verde hordes to away matches.
While some, including the team itself, have said that the higher-tier MLS team is to blame, others, including some Austin Bold fans themselves, say that poor marketing is the cause for empty seats.
You've got a bad location, no marketing (in 2019 I saw billboards everywhere), and alienating area fans by funding the PAC to try and keep MLS out of town - a series of unforced errors doomed the team.
— Shawn Collins (@shawncollins) August 12, 2021
Some say the stadium's location inside Circuit of the Americas, which sits nearly 20 miles from the center of town, has contributed to the team's lack of success, while others say insufficient ownership has led to the team's demise.
As a loyal fan this is disappointing. The lack of attendance isn't due to Austin FC, but rather a lack of marketing. I believe that I've done more to bring people to this game. What's needed is staffing which the owner has failed to do.
— Carlos A (@carlos_alpuche_) August 12, 2021
The team is owned by Bobby Epstein, COTA's chairman who donated $128,000 to a PAC that aimed to keep Austin FC and their stadium out of town in 2018 when both Austin Bold's 5,000-seat stadium and Austin FC's McKalla Place location were in the works. The move has left a bad taste in the mouth of plenty of Austin soccer fans, including Shawn Collins, who now supports both Austin FC and women's team FC Austin Elite but won't wear the Bold's signature teal and gold.
"The only game I ever went to (at COTA) was FC Austin Elite in 2019 because I didn't want to support Bobby Epstein after he tried to stop Austin FC from coming to be," Collins told Austonia.
Austin Bold has had friction with Austin FC leadership ever since the fateful move, presumably preventing any partnership between the two professional teams.
The team has yet to confirm the move. Epstein told then-Statesman writer Chris Bils that he planned on keeping Austin Bold "just for fun" in 2020 even as the pandemic and upcoming MLS team were significant obstacles to the team's success.
However, North Texas soccer site 3rddegree.net reported that the team would switch ownership to Neltex Sports Group, LLC. According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, a proposed stadium in town would seat 10,000, double its Austin location.
It's been a turbulent year for Austin Bold—from midseason head coaching changes to on-field criminal charges and a slew of injuries—but they're still very shakily in playoff contention. At fifth in the Mountain Division, they've still got a slim chance at making playoffs if they win their Saturday match, but they'll be relying on the losses of RGVFC and New Mexico if they're to move up in the ranks.
Austin Bold will have their (likely) final game as—well, Austin Bold—against the Charlotte Independence at 8 p.m. on Saturday at Austin Bold Stadium.
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By Jonathan Lee
The Planning Commission was split Tuesday on whether to help save an eclectic lakefront estate from demolition by zoning it historic amid concerns over tax breaks and the likelihood that a previous owner participated in segregation as a business owner.
The property in question, known as the Delisle House, is located at 2002 Scenic Drive in Tarrytown. The main house, with Spanish and Modern influences, was built in 1923 by Raymond Delisle, an optician. A Gothic Revival accessory apartment was built in 1946. The current owner applied to demolish the structures in order to build a new home.'
Historic preservationists, for their part, overwhelmingly support historic zoning, which would preserve the buildings in perpetuity. The Historic Landmark Commission unanimously voted to initiate historic zoning in July, citing architectural significance, landscape features and association to historic figures. City staffers recommend historic zoning, calling both structures one-of-a-kind examples of vernacular architecture.
Tarrytown neighbors have also banded together to stop the demolition. Many have written letters, and a few spoke at the meeting. “How could anyone buy this property with the intent of destroying it?” Ila Falvey said. “I think it’s an architectural treasure.”
Michael Whellan, an attorney representing the property owner, said that the claims made by preservationists are shaky. The buildings are run down, he said, and have had substantial renovations. A structural engineer hired by the owner said any attempt at preservation would involve tearing down and rebuilding – an undertaking Whellan said would likely cost millions.
Whellan also argued that any historical significance derived from the property’s association with Delisle and longtime owner C.H. Slator is dubious. “These men are not noted for any civic, philanthropic or historic impact,” he said.
What’s more, according to Whellan, Slator likely participated in segregation as the owner of the Tavern on North Lamar Boulevard between 1953 and 1960.
A city staffer, however, said she found no evidence to support the claim. “We would never landmark a property where a segregationist lived, or there was a racist person,” Kimberly Collins with the Historic Preservation Office said.
Commissioner Awais Azhar couldn’t support historic zoning in part due to lingering uncertainty about Slator. “Focusing on that factor is not here to disparage an individual or family. It is not about playing the race card. This is an important assertion for us to consider as Planning commissioners,” Azhar said.
Commissioner Carmen Llanes Pulido said that allegations of racism should come as no surprise. “We’re talking about white male property owners in the 1950s, in Austin, on the west side – and of course they were racist,” she said. But she argued that allowing the house to be demolished based on these grounds does nothing to help people of color who have been harmed by racism and segregation.
The question of tax breaks was also controversial. Michael Gaudini, representing the property owner, said that the tax breaks associated with historic zoning would exacerbate inequality by shifting property tax burdens to less affluent communities. City staffers estimate that the property, appraised at $3.5 million, would get either a $8,500 or $16,107 property tax break annually, depending on whether a homestead exemption is applied.
Commissioner Grayson Cox preferred the commission focus not on tax breaks but on whether the structures merit preservation. “To me, nothing in the historic preservation criteria lists, is this person deserving of a tax break or not?”
Azhar, on the other hand, said he plans to propose a code amendment getting rid of city property tax breaks for historic properties.
The commission fell one vote short of recommending historic zoning, with six commissioners in support and three opposed. Azhar and commissioners Claire Hempel and Greg Anderson voted against.
The odds of City Council zoning over an owner’s wishes are slim. Nine out of 11 members must vote in favor, and there have only been a handful of such cases over the past several decades.
What's new in Austin food & drink this week:
- Nau's Enfield Drug closing after losing their lease. Did McGuire Moorman Lambert buy the building, with its vintage soda fountain?
- Nixta Taqueria Chef Edgar Rico named to Time Magazine's Time 100 Next influencer list, after winning a James Beard Award earlier this year.
- Question: From what BBQ joint did pescatarian Harry Styles order food this week?
- Austin Motel is opening the pool and pool bar Wednesday nights in October for Freaky Floats.
- Vincent's on the Lake closing due to "economic conditions and low water levels [at Lake Travis]."
- Cenote has closed its Windsor Park location. The East Cesar Chavez location remains open.
- The Steeping Room on N. Lamar has closed.
- Local startup It's Skinnyscored new financing for its gluten-free pasta business.
- P. Terry's opened a new location in Kyle, at 18940 IH-35.