A permanent home for the Houston Dynamo took its biggest step to date on Thursday when the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority officially approved a 30-year lease for a downtown soccer-specific stadium.
While the city and county both had earlier approved the framework for the stadium deal, the final legal hurdle was coming to an agreement with the Sports Authority on the lease. With the unanimous approval by the Sports Authority on Thursday, that hurdle has been cleared.
“The stadium will help revitalize the East End, create jobs and business opportunities without issuing any bonds or incurring any public debt,” said Kenny Friedman, chairman of the board of the Sports Authority, in a statement. “This agreement will bring a world-class facility to our community without burdening our taxpayers.”
The Houston Chronicle reported earlier Thursday that the Dynamo will pay $65,000 a year for their lease. The Authority will own the stadium on behalf of the city and the county and lease it back to the club. The city purchased the land in early 2008, but the Dynamo, along with a contribution from Texas Southern University, will carry all of the stadium-construction costs.
“This is the first sports venue certainly that we are aware of that doesn’t have any public money involved,” explained Friedman, “and we think it’s a phenomenal deal for the taxpayers for this community, as it doesn’t cost them anything, and it will be a terrific facility.”
While there are a couple more steps before breaking ground on the stadium, the Dynamo are one step closer to having their new downtown home.
“For us to have a major league franchise and build a major league brand and image, we have to have a building that’s our own,” said Dynamo president Chris Canetti. “We certainly wanted to be downtown and in this location, and given those two factors, this provides the right economic model for us moving forward.”
Final approval of the lease agreement with both the city and county is expected to follow, and construction will begin shortly thereafter with hope that the stadium will open during the team’s 2012 season.
“We’re at the finish line and looking forward to breaking ground very soon,” said Canetti. “Hopefully in the summer of April 2012, these streets will be filled with soccer fans lining up to going to Dynamo games.”
Dwain Capodice is a contributor to MLSsoccer.com. Questions or Comments can be sent via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.