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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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.