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Austin FC's on-schedule 2021 debut season shines as a bright spot for optimistic fans amid a pandemic
Jeremiah Bentley is planning to purchase season tickets for Austin FC, the soccer team that will be the city's first major league sports franchise, despite the uncertainty that comes with a pandemic.
Bentley is a member of Austin Anthem, the team's official supporters group, whose members have access to a designated section in McKalla Place, the $260 million stadium under construction in North Austin.
The stadium went vertical in early February and work has continued, thanks to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's March 31 executive order deeming construction an essential service. It is expected to open early next year, ahead of Austin FC's inaugural season, which is still expected to begin in the spring.
McKalla Place, the $240 million stadium under construction in North Austin(Austonia staff)
"I've got my supporters-section deposit in, and I'm planning on buying three [sets of tickets], for me and my two sons," Bentley said.
Amid the havoc wreaked by the pandemic, some Austinites have found a bright spot in Austin FC. A poll of Austonia readers found nearly 70% believe the team's debut will continue as planned, and meanwhile future fans are making pilgrimages to the McKalla work site to see its progress.
Our house is looking so good! Made me so excited to drive by and see the progress today!! @AustinFC @AustinAnthem… https://t.co/Yiyc1hqh07— Andi (@Andi)1589064912.0
Sunday afternoon bike ride (dare I say pilgrimage?) to visit our favorite example of sacral architecture 🏟️🌳⚽🚴🏻♂️😄… https://t.co/gGymD5M2ef— Chris H (@Chris H)1588529094.0
Beautiful afternoon to ride and wonder around. Decided to check out this beauty up close. Looks amazing!… https://t.co/5HyTfOC8MX— Juan M. (@Juan M.)1588290531.0
"The club's fortunate—where we are in terms of timing—because you're still building the framework, you're still building the outside, so it's really easy to be able to do that socially distanced and safely," Bentley said.
Austin FC has not provided formal updates since mid-March, but its president, Andy Loughnane, reported to MLS that ticket sales were strong earlier this year.
When the team opened ticket sales to the public last June, it broke a league record for most deposits made in the first 24 hours: 30,000. Since then, sales have surpassed 40,000 deposits and the stadium's most expensive products—suites, field club and loges—have sold out entirely.
Ticket prices have not been announced, but local Austin FC blog Capital City Soccer compared prices from the league's newest clubs: FC Cincinnati, FC Dallas, Houston Dynamo, Inter MIami CF and Nashville SC. Among those teams, supporters' season tickets went for $180-$425, with the high-end seats ranging from $1,400 to $4,100.
"It does not seem like interest has slowed down," Bentley said of what he's heard from other Anthem members. "I'm sure that there are individual people who are going to be affected by [the pandemic] that have to make changes because of their budget, but it doesn't seem to have had a significant effect on people's appetite for tickets."
The stadium went vertical in early February. (Austonia staff)
The next batch of tickets that will be made available to deposit holders are more affordable. The team has committed to selling 70% of stadium season tickets for $48 or less in an effort to make the games accessible for the wider Austin community, and supporter tickets are expected to be even less.
In the meantime, both Austin FC and Austin Anthem are planning for the year ahead.
Sporting Director Claudio Reyna said at a January press conference that the team would likely sign its first players this summer, though this is a process that may be delayed by the pandemic for leagues around the world.
Austin Anthem has paused its in-person events for the time being. But Bentley is optimistic. "It's been a good change to plan and develop a strategy about how to grow [the group] out because it has been going nonstop with things ever since the club got announced [in 2019]," he said. "So a little pause is not the worst thing in the world."
Anthem has around 2,000 members on its email list—but has room to grow. There are over 3,000 seats in the supporter section at McKalla Place. "We need to double in size between now and a year from now," Bentley said.
Correction: This story has been updated with the correct value for the stadium. The original version said it was $240 million; it is $260 million.
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Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced a record-setting second quarter during an earnings call broadcasted from the Giga Texas construction site in Southeast Travis County on Monday.
The electric carmaker reported more than $1 billion in quarterly net income and the production of more than 200,000 vehicles for the first time despite challenges such as a global semiconductor shortage.
"It … seems that public sentiment towards electric vehicles is at an inflection point, and at this point, I think, almost everyone agrees electric vehicles are the only way forward," Musk said.
Exterior shots taken just a while ago of Giga Texas (while @elonmusk is reportedly at the Gigafactory!) during today's earnings call!
Hope @peterdog15 got to catch the technoking in his video! #fastestinhistory #Tesla pic.twitter.com/WqeDlb5wU3
— Austin Tesla Club (@AustinTeslaClub) July 26, 2021
Despite rising consumer demand and adequate factory capacity, Tesla faces what Musk described as a "quite serious" global semiconductor shortage, which will determine the company's growth rate for the rest of the year.
With increased revenue and production, Tesla is investing in new factories, Chief Financial Officer Zachary Kirkhorn said. These include Giga Texas, the $1.1 billion manufacturing plant that broke ground last summer and is slated to open later this year.
The Giga Texas factory in Southeast Travis County has rapidly increased in size since ground broke last August. (Tesla)
Musk commended the construction team for "incredible progress," transforming what was basically a vacant site into "a mostly complete large factory a year later."
I was at Giga Texas yesterday. Team is making excellent progress. Building will be almost a mile long when complete.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 25, 2021
Giga Texas will produce the highly anticipated Cybertruck, along with other models, but Musk said scaling its production will be difficult, especially given the supply chain delays caused by the pandemic. "It's going to move as fast as the slowest of its up to 10,000 unique parts," he said.
In other news, Musk said Monday's earnings call would likely be his last regular appearance, only jumping on future quarterly calls when big announcements warrant it.
Tesla Solar recently made news when it announced plans to build the nation's most sustainable residential community in Southeast Austin earlier this month. The newly built homes will feature Tesla solar roof tiles and Powerwall battery storage as well as electric vehicle charging stations.
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The city of Austin released a shortlist of seven candidates for the police chief position left vacant when Brian Manley retired in March.
City Manager Spencer Cronk hopes to announce an appointment by the end of August, which will require City Council approval.
The finalists, chosen from a field of 46 applicants, include:
- APD Interim Chief Joseph Chacon, who previously served as an assistant chief in the department for almost five years
- Anne Kirkpatrick, former police chief in Oakland, California, who was fired last year after a federal monitor criticized her handling of a fatal 2018 police shooting of a homeless man
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City staff will interview the finalists in the coming weeks, with several community input opportunities to come, according to a Monday press release.
The city conducted a public survey in March and hosted community input meetings in April to learn more about what residents are looking for in their next police chief, which helped shape the selection criteria for the position.
"They want to see the Chief be reform-minded and transparent and have a track record of fostering community involvement and accountability," Cronk said in the release. "The candidates selected show these characteristics in various ways."
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Days after Austin began once again recommending masks in public spaces, Austin ISD announced Monday that kindergarten through sixth-grade classes will have virtual options this fall.
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