Less than a week before Austin FC packs their bags for their inaugural match, team president Andy Loughnane told SportBusiness the club is considering bringing a National Women's Soccer League team to Austin.
"We're very intrigued with the idea of developing the best possible plan to explore the creation of a new women's team to compete at the top level of women's soccer and play home matches in front of a sold-out crowd at Q2 Stadium," Loughnane said.
The top-flight women's soccer team would be part of the NWSL, the premier U.S. women's league. Boosted by the success of the U.S. Women's National Team and booming interest in soccer, the NWSL has the highest average attendance per game of any women's professional sport league in the U.S. The league also features three "sister teams" with the MLS, two partnerships with USL teams and a team that is affiliated with a French Ligue I team.
"We need to successfully launch Austin FC in MLS as the first step," Loughnane said. "Yes, we think that eventually a top-flight women's team and a top-flight men's team can be complementary and successful together as co-inhabitants of Q2 Stadium and St. David's Performance Center."
Luckily, fans of women's soccer won't have to wait too much longer with a different professional league soon to be in town.
Years before Austin FC became the city's first professional soccer team, the newly-formed "MLS in Austin" group made sure to follow one team first—FC Austin Elite, the city's semipro women's soccer club that has been representing their city since before the "boomtown" hype. FC Austin Elite will soon upgrade into Austin's first professional women's soccer team. It will be joining a new Division II professional league next year.
As Austin FC has worked to stack their roster, FC Austin Elite has been doing the same. The club's newest signees include international pros, former NWSL stars and college graduates ready to take their talents to the next level.
"We are actually out recruiting professional players," Woodfill said. "Everybody in the country wants to come to Austin right now, and now they can play pro soccer now in Austin as women."
As an NWSL team comes into fruition, the two teams can form a mutually beneficial partnership and help build a "pipeline" for women to continue their athletic pursuits after college.
For now, the club is focused on its upcoming season. Formerly a summer league, it has expanded through October and will have 15 home games this season.
Just as La Murga will be seen drumming up the crowd at Austin FC games, the band and other dedicated soccer fans will be seen at the Elite matches.
"We've known those people from the beginning, and those are still the same fans that we have today," Woodfill said. "The Los Verdes members, the Austin Anthem members, they're the same people that are diehard fans for us, too. I think that when we all work together, it blows up even more."
After their season kicks off, the team is most looking forward to an ultimate soccer weekend as they play against a mysterious international "special guest team" on Friday, June 18, the day before Austin FC's inaugural home match 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.