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After months of writing about Austin FC's $260 million Q2 Stadium, Austonia finally got a sneak peek of what the facility will look like in time for the June 19 home opener.
Austin FC writer Claire Partain, senior producer Sonia Garcia and photo journalist Christa McWhirter put on our hard hats, grabbed a camera, and learned about all the details-from mesh stadium seats to the pitch's premium grass species. We made pit stops on the field, in the stands and in the press box. View highlights of the visit on Instagram here.
Here are some things to take away before seeing it for yourself:
When COVID rules are fully lifted, the Q2 Stadium can fill up to 20,500 people. Around 75% of seating will go to season ticket holders, while the rest will be allocated to regular-season single match ticket buyers.
Official COVID protocols have not been officially announced, but Austin FC President Andy Loughnane said that fans can expect a "large crowd" for the team's home opener. Stadium and team officials are going to continue to play it by ear as the pandemic continues to improve.
According to Loughnane, the stadium is on schedule to be completed—for the most part—by late March or early April. Some details, such as furniture and signage, may take a bit longer and will be filled in for the remainder of April and May, as well as some privately-run offsite traffic projects.
From the pitch
A team with a signature Verde color needs to go hand-in-hand with a bright green field. That's where Platinum TE Seashore Paspalum comes in: the species of grass carefully selected and shipped in from Arizona to become Austin FC's first-ever pitch. The grass, which has been used by other shaded open-air stadiums such as the Houston Astros, can be cut short and is durable and reliable. It's the first time the species has been used on an MLS field, and the club has plenty of staff and technology to keep it green and pristine.
While the white stripes had been on the field previously, according to Senior Public Relations Manager Mauricio Villarreal, the 115-yard pitch was missing its lines once again when we paid a visit. The benches for the players, located on the west side of the stadium, were still being worked on and covered.
Amenities: what is and isn't ready
While Austonia saw the field, the press box and part of the area's food and hospitality space, many features are still in progress.
Here's a list of things that are still in the works:
- The beer hall won't be open to the public, but we know that the facility will have 18 taps, 20 TV screens and be able to hold up to 400 people.
- The 5,000-square foot Verde Store, located underneath the beer hall on the north side, will be a one-stop shop for Verde merch and accessories. The store will be open even when matches aren't going on, with daily openings except for on major holidays. Another store, The ATXFC Shop, will be located on the other side of the stadium and will draw its inspiration from famous Austin record stores.
- We got a peek at the luxury suites in the building but weren't able to enter. While much of the furniture and amenities that will take the suites to the next level were not yet in place, we were able to see some built in benches in the air-conditioned spaces.
- The press box—more for us than for you—gives us a bird's eye view from the west side to make sure our coverage is as accurate as possible.
- The H-E-B Plaza, located outside of the stadium's northeast corner, will be home to iconic Austin food trucks.
- Austin FC's newest sponsor, Captain Morgan, will be the namesake for the east side's Captain Morgan Club, an entertainment and hospitality area.
Concerts and events at the live music capital
With Austin being Austin, it's no surprise that the stadium will also double as a concert and events venue. Rumor has it that some events may even take place before the team's home opener, but no official announcements have been made.
The south side of the stadium's seats will also be a stage. The iconic "ATX" seats can actually be split in half and pushed away to give way to a massive concert and event facility.
The seats, which are designed for standing only, will be home to Austin FC fan clubs including Austin Anthem, Los Verdes and La Murga de Austin. The murga, or band, is inspired by fan bands for teams in many Latin American countries and will keep spirits alive in the stadium throughout the game. Although it hasn't been tested out yet, the stadium was designed to make sure fans in all corners of the stadium can hear La Murga's steady drumbeats and chants.
Keeping it cool
Although the winter storm may have made us temporarily forget, a balmy Austin summer is ahead of us. Austin FC knows that keeping fans and players cool is a priority and have adjusted to the potentially oppressive Texas heat. The stadium has been built to bring wind in and keep a steady air flow throughout the stadium, and 6,000 total seats on the lower sections of the stadium are made of breathable mesh to minimize heat.
Air conditioned areas are located on the north and south sides of the stadium as well as suites on the west side.
As construction wraps up for the city's newest stadium, fans may actually be able to see the facility for themselves before the June 19 home opener. On Monday, Loughnane said that the club is looking to open up public tours in the next few months.
Austin FC will face its first-ever opponent in Los Angeles against LAFC on April 17 before they make it home for the first time to play the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday, June 19.
For daily updates on Austin FC, sign up for free messages from Austonia.
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With more research done on the COVID-19 Delta variant, Austin Public Health is upping its goal of 70% vaccinated to at least 80% due to the extreme virality of the strain.
As more Delta cases are identified—up to 29 cases are confirmed in Travis County—health officials are urging the unvaccinated to get their shots to contain the spread and relieve hospitals from reaching full capacity.
Austin-Travis County surpassed the Stage 5 threshold on Friday and has reached a seven-day average of 61 hospital admissions. However, Austin health leaders have yet to make an official shift as the Delta variant calls for new guidance, APH Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes said at a joint Travis County Commissioners Court meeting on Tuesday morning.
The new guidance has yet to be released, but Walkes said it will take into account the viral load of Delta on both unvaccinated and vaccinated people.
Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed the Delta variant was as contagious as chickenpox, which has a herd immunity threshold of at least 90% vaccinated.
Although 63.42% of those eligible in Travis County are fully vaccinated, breakthrough cases—where vaccinated people are contracting COVID-19—are being identified. APH has identified 1,496 breakthrough cases of the roughly 800,000 vaccinated. Most breakthrough cases are showing less severe symptoms or are asymptomatic, according to APH.
Health officials are still asking residents to wear masks, although the city cannot mandate any masking orders due to an executive order by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
"Our challenge is going to be whether we're going to stand as a community and everyone who can get vaccinated, get vaccinated, and everyone where a mask—that's what it's going to take," Walkes said.
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Save Austin Now police petition will reach November ballot after county clerk certifies 25,000 signatures
Save Austin Now is now 2-0 over Austin City Council after its petition to add more staffed police officers to the Austin Police Department was certified, garnering over the 20,000 votes needed to make it on an election ballot.
The petition calls for more police staffing per city resident, quicker response times and more training for city police officers in the wake of increasing violent crime rates nationwide and a year of limited APD staffing. The City Council will now decide whether to implement the ordinance outright or add it to the November election ballot; it will likely do the latter.
Over 25,000 of the 27,778 signatures racked up by the public safety petition were certified as valid, well over the 20,000-vote threshold required to be certified with the City Clerk. City Clerk Jannette Goodall placed the city's seal of approval on the petition on Tuesday morning.
The petition, by the same political group that got the camping ban reinstated through a petition in May, seeks to:
- Require minimum staffing of two officers per 1,000 residents
- Require a minimum standard of 35% community response time
- Add 40 hours of training
- Require city council members, Mayor Steve Adler and other city staff to enroll in the Citizens Police Academy
- Facilitate minority officer hiring through foreign language proficiency metrics
Austin's 160 patrol vacancies have dropped its staffing rate to 1.2 officers per 1,000 residents, according to the department. APD's response time has increased by about one minute and 50 seconds in a year.
The petition comes nearly a year after APD's budgets were slashed by city council following the summer's Black Lives Matter protests, which saw several demonstrators severely injured as millions called for justice in the police-related deaths of George Floyd and locally Mike Ramos, an unarmed Black man killed by APD officer Christopher Taylor, in April 2020.
Austin and the U.S. have experienced a widespread uptick in violent crime rates in 2021. The city has reached 49 homicides in 2021, higher than the total number of murders in all of 2020 and the 38 homicides in the city in 2019. Austin police officers have seen response times rise as the department suffers increased vacancies and fewer newcomers while cadet classes are being readjusted.
Opponents argue the ordinance would ramp up a policing budget while taking away from other departments including Fire, EMS, violence prevention, and mental health care. City Council Member Greg Casar, the Travis County Democratic Party and the Austin Justice Coalition have spoken out against the organization's latest public safety move, calling out the campaign as a "right-wing petition" that misleads those who sign.
🔥 PANTS ON FIRE: Republican-front group Save Austin Now is lying about their petition!
They say their measure is about police reform, when it's really about devastating our city budget - all for the benefit of the police union. Watch the video here ⬇️ #ATX pic.twitter.com/Z6QQSfhHfH
— Gregorio Casar (@GregCasar) August 2, 2021
The latest battle between city council and Save Austin Now will be decided by Austin residents in the Nov. 2 election.
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Austin City Limits fest and iHeartRadio Fest are the latest festivals to announce the removal of rapper DaBaby, who has come under fire for homophobic comments made during a recent festival.
The 29-year-old rapper, whose real name is Jonathan Lyndale Kirk, was dropped by Lollapalooza just hours before his set on Sunday, followed by the Governor's Ball in New York and Nevada's Day N Vegas after making unsolicited comments about men with HIV/AIDS at the Rolling Loud Festival in Miami. Rolling Stone Magazine confirmed with iHeartRadio organizers that DaBaby will no longer perform.
DaBaby will no longer be performing at Austin City Limits Music Festival — lineup update coming soon. pic.twitter.com/jAYfdJFxJf
— ACL Festival (@aclfestival) August 3, 2021
There is no word on who he will be replaced with yet, though rumors on ACL's subreddit, r/aclfestival, are saying they expect Tyler, The Creator, who performed at Lollapalooza. Kirk will be replaced at Day N Vegas by rapper Roddy Ricch.
Kirk later backtracked his offensive statements on his Instagram story, but again faced criticism for not exactly apologizing.
After facing a second round of backlash for his Instagram statements, the rapper posted on Instagram, saying:
In addition to being dropped from the festivals, DaBaby has been denounced by fellow celebrities like Dua Lipa, Madonna and Elton John.
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