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The roar of Austin FC fans will be heard soon, as the newest Major League Soccer member looks to kick off their season in a brand new stadium in 2021.
A 23.5 acre site, located at 10414 McKalla Place, is the future home to the 20,500 seat Austin FC stadium—a $242 million privately-funded, state-of-the-art facility for Austin's newest team.
"I was tracking this for a long time," Chris Welhausen said. A born and raised Austinite, Chris has been watching MLS for a while and the second there were even rumors of a team coming to Austin, Chris was on board.
Rumors first started about a potential MLS expansion team that could be coming to the capital city when Two Oak Ventures, led by investor Anthony Precourt, bought the MLS Columbus Crew in 2013. The intention behind closed doors at the time was to move the franchise to one of the fastest growing areas in the country—Austin.
In 2017 Two Oak Ventures made their intentions known. The ownership group announced plans to move the Crew to Austin and start playing games as soon as 2019.
Before the team could be moved, Cleveland businesses, lead by Jimmy and Dee Haslam, owners of the Cleveland Browns, stepped in and bought the rights to the Crew. Because the Crew would not be moving, MLS granted Two Oak Ventures a franchise, creating the expansion franchise Austin FC.
In 2019, MLS announced Austin FC as the 27th official club, making it the newest official professional sports team in the city. Before the move, Austin was the largest city in the U.S. without a major professional sports league. Austin FC joins the Austin Huns Rugby Club as the only other pro league in the city.
"I think it's the best possible outcome," Jeremiah Bentley said. Bentely moved to Austin after attending the University of Texas in 1992. Bentley said he makes up the core demographic of Austin FC's fans: Austinites who love the city and have been looking for a team that is their own.
In August, Austin FC sold out of season ticket memberships. That is equal to about 15,000 seats or almost 75% of the stadium capacity. The club selling out season tickets still leaves about 5,000 tickets available for individual purchase for select games in the spring.
The addition of all star players like Cecilio Dominguez, the 26-year-old Paraguayan National Team forward, along with 20-year-old Paraguayan left winger Rodney Redes adds excitement. Redes was the first player officially signed to Austin FC after he transferred from Paraguay's Primera Division Club Guarani in July. Fans can expect more players signing down the road.
If they’re as good in Austin as they are in Libertadores, we’re going to have some fun next year. A goal from Cecil… https://t.co/ox5UCWiugw— Austin FC (@Austin FC)1601604069.0
Even with the COVID-19 pandemic preventing other expansion franchisees like Charlotte and St. Louis from starting on schedule, Austin FC is still set to open their doors and play their first home game in the spring of 2021, according to Austin FC representatives.
The MLS schedule won't be released for a few more months, but fan support for the team is already building.
The official Austin FC Twitter and Instagram accounts combine for more than 80,000 followers. Austin FC already has arguably the most famous fan and now part owner, UT's Minister of Culture and Academy Award winner Matthew McConaughey.
"I think (McConaughey) is the guy that most represents Austin and the culture," Bentley said. "It's cool that he's really involved and really into it. He's not just another famous person who is just lending their name to sell some extra tickets. He is all in on the whole experience."
New @MLS owner @MatthewMcConaughey is an actor, producer, and philanthropist. McConaughey, a graduate of @UTAustin… https://t.co/K8sH6YeRp0— Austin FC (@Austin FC)1566577100.0
The Austin FC front office group hosted McConaughey on a Zoom call for local supporter groups in August. Bentley said McConaughey talked for an hour about chants and the experience he was looking for from the club.
Fan groups sprung up almost as soon as the announcement that a MLS team would be coming to the capital city. The fan groups have shown their support for UT women's soccer games this season, drumming up excitement for the upcoming season.
"The fan movement and supporter culture here is unbelievable," Welhausen said. "We have a really tight knit group that's already been connecting online. It's super organized, growing really fast."
Between the new stadium, the new players and the fan support, Austin FC looks poised to surprise not only the city but the rest of MLS when the season kicks off next year.
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Matthew McConaughey is reportedly weighing a run for Texas governor in 2022.
The Austin resident and Oscar winner has been "quietly making calls to influential people in Texas political circles, including a deep-pocketed moderate Republican and energy CEO" as he decides whether to run, according to Politico.
McConaughey said a gubernatorial run is "a true consideration" while on a March episode of Houston's "The Balanced Voice" podcast.
Although most political strategists doubt McConaughey's commitment and viability as a candidate, some are still intrigued by the possibility.
"I find it improbable, but it's not out of the question," Karl Rove, a top Republican strategist with a long history in Austin, told the political news site. He added that the big question is whether McConaughey would run as a Republican, a Democrat or an independent.
Brendan Steinhauser, an Austin-based GOP strategist, told Politico he's surprised McConaughey isn't being taken more seriously. "Celebrity in this country counts for a lot," he said. "It's not like some C-list actor no one likes. He has an appeal."
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott plans to run for a third term and remains popular among Republican voters, 77% of whom approve of his performance as of April, according to the Texas Politics Project.
Some strategists believe an independent McConaughey run would benefit Abbott. But a recent poll from The Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas at Tyler found that McConaughey would beat Abbott, 45% to 33%, with 22% opting for someone else.
Mimi Swartz, an executive editor at Texas Monthly, mulled a McConaughey run in a recent opinion essay from the New York Times. "Texas may not be ready for a philosopher king as a candidate, much less governor," she wrote. "May the best man win, man."
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Some JuiceLand production facility workers and storefront employees are organizing to demand wage increases, better working conditions (including air conditioning in the warehouse) and pay transparency, among other asks. They are also calling on staff to strike and customers to boycott the Austin-based company until their demands are met.
JuiceLand responded on Saturday. "We are listening," the company wrote on their Instagram story. "JuiceLand crew now makes guaranteed $15 an hour or more companywide."
JuiceLand, which was founded in 2001 by Matt Shook and now has 35 locations in Austin, Houston and Dallas, acknowledged the rising cost of living across Texas and the added stress of the pandemic in an email to employees on Saturday, part of which @juicelandworkersrights shared on social media. "There's no denying that times are tough and financial security means more now than ever," the company wrote.
Organized JuiceLand workers rejected this proposal, according to a recent post on the @juicelandworkersrights Instagram account, and reiterated their demands.
"Cost of living in Austin is rising exponentially and will only continue to get worse with the tech boom," the post read. "$15 is barely a sustainable living."