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.
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The holiday season is upon us, so get ready to celebrate with carols, snacks and light shows galore. Austin is full of holiday festivities spanning throughout all of December so get out and enjoy the cool weather while it lasts.
Don't miss these nine holiday-themed light shows.
Austin's most famous annual light show and a Readers Choice of USA Today's 10 Best Public Displays of Holiday Lights, the Trail of Lights will be drive-thru again this year Nov. 27-Dec. 31. For 57 years in a row, the Trail of Lights has lit up Zilker Park with games, food, local vendors and more than two million lights gleaming for the holidays. The event, as always, is free to the public and you can reserve slots here. The Zilker Tree is already up, so you can already see it if the holiday cheer is too much to bear.
Coming back for the second year in a row, Peppermint Parkway will transport you to COTALAND, where six million lights gleam and Christmas is just a one-mile drive away. The hybrid event will have you drive through the display of lights, dancing elves and unique little villages before you hit the walking plaza, where you can grab a bite to eat and meet Santa. Tickets range from $40-$95, some including a lap around the COTA track, running from Nov. 26-Dec. 26.
Dreamland Dripping Springs has been transformed into a winter wonderland—running throughout the month of December, the venue's first-ever holiday display is taking over with activities for the whole family. Plus, running from Nov. 20-Jan. 4, a pop-up ice skating rink will really bring the holiday cheer for $10 or $5 Monday specials. The lights display will feature half a million lights and warm, festive sips from the taproom.
With events galore for the holiday season, winter is really when the Hill Country Galleria thrives. Starting with its Light Up The Plaza event on Saturday from 6-8 p.m., where visitors can see Santa, gaze at the official lighting of the holiday tree and hear some live tunes from rock band American Authors. The Galleria will also hold a holiday market every Thursday, Friday and Saturday leading up to Christmas Eve and periodic photos with Santa at Buenos Aires Cafe.
Deck the Halls at the Driskill Hotel
(Courtesy of the Driskill Hotel)
This holiday season, the Driskill will deck out every nook and cranny of the historic hotel from the grand staircase to the 16-foot Christmas tree in the lobby to be lit on a Dec. 1 ceremony that will be open to the public. Touches of Driskill festivities can also be seen at Dell Children's Hospital with a gingerbread village for its annual "Cookies for Caring" event.
Kicking off the lighting of the tree on Saturday, Dec. 4, Austinites will gather on the steps of the Texas Capitol at 6 p.m. to sing the 45-foot tree to life. Afterward, local band Los Coast will close out the night with a free concert. The fun doesn't stop there though as the Downtown Austin Alliance will host the Downtown Holiday Stroll, with "holiday passports" and stamps to collect for local restaurants and stores, and a Frida Friday Holiday Market at Republic Square.
Combining festive holiday lights and the beautiful native plants of Central Texas, Luminations at the Wildflower Center is back with thousands of lights, luminarias and a lit-up look at Fortlandia. This year will also feature an interactive light maze called "silvana" by Ben Busche of architecture firm Brut Deluxe, which will be the maze's first appearance in North America. The event will run Thursdays-Sundays from Dec. 2-Jan. 30 for $10-$25 per person.
Reserved tables are back for Mozart's Coffee Roasters annual Christmas Lights Show for $20 four-person tables and $30 six-person tables—so get your tickets early because these tables are likely to sell out. The light show will also feature a festival-style Bavarian marketplace for those last-minute gifts. If you're too late to reserve a table, don't worry, there will be standing room available for free so come one, come all, and come early for parking.
From Dec. 2-4, Old Settlers Park will light up with holiday displays, family activities, festive refreshments and live music. Watch the balloons hover above the lake as you sip on a hot chocolate or give to those in need, with stands for Round Rock Operation Blue Santa, which is taking toys for kids in need, the Play For All Foundation, which is accepting cash donations for disabled children, and the People & Parks Foundation, accepting cash donations for green space in the community. Admission to the event is free, along with most of the activities in the park.
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In this season of gifts, giving, and gratitude, Tito's is making it easy to shop for your friends and loved ones while helping our community.
The beloved Austin company's Love, Tito's retail space, downtown at 215 Lavaca Street, is fully stocked with great gear. 100% of net proceeds of whatever you purchase—a new collar for your four-legged friend, a Tito's tee, some branded barware—go to the nonprofits they support. From the environment to animal rescue, you can choose your cause while choosing a new copper cocktail kit… or old school cap… or golf polo.
The store is stocked with stuff that the online experience just can't offer: never-before-seen swag, doggy photo booths (to say it's a dog-friendly space is an understatement), a record player to spin some tunes, and a bar finder listing local spots serving mean Tito's cocktails. Locals and out-of-town visitors alike can enjoy wonderful distractions while kicking back in an environment designed to cater to Tito's fans.
While you can't enjoy a cocktail there due to Texas liquor laws, the store offers unique experiences for any and all fans of the brand, and gives folks a chance to find what resonates with them while taking home a piece of the Tito's story.
*At our Love, Tito's store in Austin, net proceeds constitute an average margin of at least 25% of the retail price of a product, excluding the cost of tax on the purchase. We are not deducting cost of our people, the store rent or other operating costs.
NFTs, which are essentially unhackable codes used as one-of-a-kind "certificates of authenticity" paid for with cryptocurrency Ethereum, have been cropping up in the Austin art scene and worldwide—and they're quickly evolving into a sports fans' paradise as a new way to snag some bragging rights through digital trading cards, tickets and highlight reels.
Here are five Austin-based athletes and sports venues now involved in NFTs:
NiftyHorns—emerging Texas NFT producer
🚨🤘🏽Player Announcement!— Nifty Horns (@NiftyHorns) September 24, 2021
First up to the plate - a man who capped a scorching spring with postseason heroics in Omaha - from El Paso, TX…
Ivan Melendez! @ivanmelendez17_
NFT trading cards for the Hispanic Titanic will be available this fall as part of our first pack drop. pic.twitter.com/2xI3aMd6Tv
College sports' entrance to NFTs originally came from another Austin—a picture of Stephen F. Austin's women's basketball team as they made their first NCAA championship berth was the first to break into the market in March 2020.
Now with NCAA NIL rules in their favor, it's easier than ever for Texas athletes to cash in on their clout. The University of Texas' LEVERAGE Lineup looks to serve as a database to connect even walk-on Longhorn athletes—like Surly Horn's "Burnt Ends" tight ends deal—to lucrative sponsorship contracts.
But there hasn't yet been a database that gives each player their own Robinson-esque NFT trading card—until NiftyHorns stepped in with an NFT business model that they hope to one day have officially linked to the school.
They've already made headway with an NFT for Longhorns baseball player Ivan Melendez using the same blockchain utilized by TopShot.
"(We want to) not make it exclusive to star players or just the big three sports," NiftyHorns co-founder Josh Pitel said. "We feel very fortunate to be in a space where the fan base is large enough and passionate enough to actually support a wide variety of athletes."
Bijan Robinson—Candy.com trading card
With nearly 130,000 followers across Twitter and Instagram, Bijan Robinson is a star on and off the football field. He's used that clout to his advantage and partnered with Raising Cane's, Athletic Brewing and Centre Apparel.
And he's now following in the footsteps of NBA's TopShot with his very own NFT. Trading cards are a growing commodity in the NFT community, with TopShot raking in $700 million on cards, highlight reels and more last year.
Robinson's 100 Rare NFTs currently sit at $250 and feature a hero shot, his jersey number, position and an animated signature with a sleek, high-tech gold finish.
COTA NFTs—360 views and tickets too
Each of the two NFTs feature 360 views of different aspects of the COTA track. (Circuit of the Americas)
Back in October, Circuit of the Americas chairman Bobby Epstein appeared to embody his promise to make the 2021 U.S. Grand Prix the "biggest event on the planet this year" as an estimated 400,000 attendees made it through the gates for the Formula One weekend event.
To commemorate the event, the circuit decided to leap into the trendy NFT scene with two 360-degree panoramas, set at minimum bids of $30,000 each. And like many who look to tack on physical elements to the mystical crypto world, the circuit includes two VIP passes for MotoGP or Formula 1 events this year or next.
"Circuit of The Americas hosts some of the world's most iconic sports and entertainment events," Epstein said in a press release. "Just as visitors realize how unique and special COTA is, we know collectors will appreciate the significance behind our designs as well as the premium hospitality associated with the winning bids."
Campbell-Williams Field NFT Collection—a true UT NFT
Check out this dope project I did for the Campbell-Williams Field NFT Collection!— Bryson Williams (@artofbryson) September 11, 2021
Titled "Longhorn Legacies" Made in collaboration with @VybHouse and @Rickthelaureate
For more info check out https://t.co/XFr5gDSFta pic.twitter.com/SRCyWsjVqM
As the school's two Heisman Trophy winners, UT football legends Earl Campbell and Ricky Williams made sports history at their times as running backs for the Longhorns football team—and they encouraged others to become part of sports history themselves with a rare collection of 100 NFTs in honor of the renaming of the school's historic football stadium.
In collaboration with UT, Campbell and Williams created the collection a year after the Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium was renamed in their honor. The "Campbell-Williams Field NFT Collection" included:
- The Campbell-Williams Experience NFT, which gives its owner two VIP tickets to the 2022 Super Bowl and Williams' Super Bowl 2022 party in Los Angeles,, dinner with Earl Campbell and friends and a 'UT Legend' memorabilia package.
- The ArtofBryson NFT, which included two tickets to The Red River Showdown (UT vs. Oklahoma) on Oct. 9, a Zoom call with both Williams and Campbell, signed cleats from current running back Robinson, and other care package add-ons.
- The Moon Ticket: six NFTs that grants its owners to an out-of-this-world astrology chat with Williams
- And the 100 trading-card style NFTs featuring artwork and both players' digital signatures.
USMNT—and their NFTs—come to Austin
As the U.S. Men's National Team headed to Austin's brand-new Q2 Stadium to play Jamaica in October, so did its Only Forward Art Series. This edition of the months-long series featured a poster design from Austin artist Phoebe "Feebee" Joynt.
Joynt incorporated her specialties in graphic design, street art and logo work to create the gameday poster, which was featured around town, at Austin FC's downtown store and online as an NFT.
"I was thrilled to work with FootyCon and U.S. Soccer," FeeBee told the USMNT. "I've always had a passion for soccer after being introduced to the sport by my dad as a young child and I'm so excited to create a piece inspired by the game that also references and is in dialogue with the amazing city of Austin that I call home."
The rare free NFT became available to all fans attending the Oct. 7 World Cup Qualifier as well as via purchase on the NTWRK app the day before the game.
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