The USL and Austin Aztex jointly announced Friday afternoon that the USL team will suspend operations for the 2016 season, with the team looking to resume in 2017. Stadium issues began over the Memorial Day weekend, when Austin was the victim of bad flooding, leaving the their home field, Austin Independent School District's House Park high school football stadium on North Lamar Boulevard. After the flood, the team was forced to relocate to Reeves Athletic Complex in Round Rock.
The joint announcement stated: "This decision did not come lightly, but it was made out of necessity as we spend the next year working with all interested parties in our quest for a soccer-friendly venue in which professional soccer in Austin can thrive," read the statement. "We know that Austin is a soccer city. The demographics and numbers prove it. This soccer city deserves a proper venue free of football lines, with amazing sightlines, and where a cold beer can be served on a hot summer night."
As anyone who has struggled to watch an Austin home game this year knows, the field is built as a multipurpose facility, and the field was a patchwork of football, lacrosse, track and field and soccer lines. Both venues lack of beer sales also has hurt the team financially, and may have been the final nail in the coffin. The USL has been pressuring the club in recent days to secure a facility that allows alcohol sales. One team owner commented to the Austin Business Journal in August that the revenue losses due to lack of beer sales were "substantial". Team affiliates reported at the time that a temporary stadium with a capacity to hold 5,000 people would cost around $5 million.
The 5,000 number is notable, as it is one of the requirements for the USL to be promoted to Division 2 status, something it is planning this year.
The lack of alcohol sales has also hurt the team in sponsorship, as the school districts forbid not only sales, but advertising as well. Prior to the season, the team had to abandon plans to have a beer sponsor on their kits because of this restriction.
No word yet what becomes of the players. I reached out to the USL, but have not received word on if the players will be released from the contracts, or loaned out. Already on Friday night, local fan favorite Kris Tyrpak signed with the San Antonio Scorpions, an NASL team. The Aztec are also the development affiliate of the MLS Columbus Crew. No word yet on how the Crew will handle this, but with FC Cincinnati beginning play next year without an affiliation, it would make since for the two instate teams to work something out.
The Austin area has had a rocky time with professional soccer. The Aztex were originally founded in 2008, but in 2010 were moved to Orlando, where they operated as Orlando City in the USL until making the jump to MLS in 2015. The current iteration of the Austin Aztex were re-founded in 2011 and began playing in the Premier Development League in 2012, before the club made its USL debut this season. It won the PDL championship in 2013.
An effort to build a permanent soccer stadium has been underway with the website, StadiumForAustin.com rallying for an expansion MLS team. That might be a hard sell with the Austin area with continued instability in the lower division teams.
The Austin Aztex finished their rocky 2015 season with a 10-15-3 record, earning 33 points, placing them 10 points out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference