Major League Soccer's Austin FC aims to score economic boost for city

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Austin’s first-ever professional sports team kicked off its debut to major league soccer last weekend. Although Austin FC may have fell in a loss to Los Angeles FC, things are looking up for the new football club and the local community. In a city still trying to recover from the tough economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, this football club brings a new hope for many businesses in the community. 

Austin is one of the fastest growing cities in America, ranking sixth, according to a study released by WalletHub. The Texas state capital has a current population of just over 1 million. 

Founder and president of Circle Brewing Co., Ben Sabel, told FOX Business that the coronavirus pandemic negatively impacted "not only our business directly, but all of the businesses that we generally interact with and sell to, bars, restaurants, anything that sells alcohol."

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Austin FC play at the Q2 Stadium for the team’s first home game in June. A study released by the city last year predicted that the Q2 Stadium will bring in over $25 million of economic activity to Austin each year with food and drink sales and hotel stays. 

Circle Brewing sits 300 yards away from the new stadium and hosted a watch party for the inaugural game. The team seems to already be delivering on its prosperous promises, with Sabel sharing that the 800-attendee event was "wildly successful." 

"We're planning for optimism in increased traffic and our watch party was kind of a test run on how things will be during home games," said Sabel. "We anticipate to be very busy." 

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President of the Austin Football Club, Andy Loughnane, shared with FOX Business that the club was "of the mindset that Austin would have a strong commercial outlook, but Austin has exceeded all of our expectations."

He continued: "Austin is [an] incredibly vibrant community, and it's a community that had already adopted the sport of soccer, but the marriage between Major League Soccer and Austin [is] the perfect fit."

The Q2 Stadium in North Austin sits on a 24-acre property and can accommodate over 20,500 fans. Austin is no stranger to welcoming large scale development as Apple continues work on $1 billion, 3-million-square-foot campus set to open in 2022. 

Sabel is expanding and adjusting his business to cater to an increase in traffic, sharing that "having a major epicenter like the stadium, is definitely to bring more people to the area and people who may not otherwise come to our brewery, come check it out." 

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The team has already grabbed major headlines with Hollywood actor Matthew McConaughey becoming minority owner and serving as the "minister of culture" for the team. Lounghane shared that the A-lister has "spent a significant amount of time helping to shape the identity and the brand of this club." McConaughey joins bold-named colleagues Will Ferrell and Drew Carey in becoming owners of Major League Soccer teams. 

The football club hopes that it will ultimately earn the trust of the community operating what is Austin's only major league property with Club President calling it a "community asset," Lounghane says. "For the life of the franchise moving forward, it is our intention to continue investing in the community."

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Austin FC has already sold 15,500 season tickets with a waitlist exceeding 17,500 fans ready to cheer on the new team. The first home game will take place on June 19 against the San Jose Earthquakes.

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