On Wednesday, the city of Houston passed an ordinance which would allow tailgating in downtown in Houston in parking lots owned and operated by sports franchises. HoustonDynamo.com caught up with BBVA Compass Stadium general manager Doug Hall to find out how this ordinance would affect Dynamo fans going forward.
HD: Can you explain what exactly the city of Houston passed this week?
DH: The city passed an amendment to the ordinance that allows open containers in the downtown area in lots owned, operated OR controlled by a sports franchise. To be clear, private lots around BBVA Compass Stadium or Minute Maid Park can not allow tailgating; only those controlled by the teams or venues. In our case, that is lot B and lot C, which we are leasing from the Astros.
HD: When you refer to tailgating, are we only talking in relation to drinking alcohol? Would fans still be allowed to bring grills and cook food?
DH: We are working with the Houston Fire Department and the Houston Police Department to make sure we are very clear as to what they will allow us to do. Just because you can tailgate, does not mean you can have open flames downtown. We have to put those parameters together to make sure we understand what the ordinances are and we can get this off to a safe, successful start.
HD: What role did the Dynamo and BBVA Compass Stadium play in this process?
DH: We knew when the Dynamo moved downtown that we would have to work through this issue because we knew it was important for our fans. It was part of the experience and culture at their previous home, so it was important that we get this done. We worked with city officials to make sure we knew what the previous ordinances were and we asked them if they would agree to accommodate open container modifications in the downtown area. That is what led to the change for lots owned and operated by the teams. They wanted to make sure there was accountability and not just a free-for-all.
HD: Would the Dynamo or BBVA Compass Stadium look to purchase/lease additional lots so more fans can tailgate before games?
DH: The way things are set up now, lots B and C are pre-sold to Dynamo season ticket holders. The average fan coming to a one-off game would not be able to get in and tailgate in Lots B and C.. We are looking to see if we can expand that footprint to operate other parking lots, but it would be on a limited basis. It won’t be every lot, but it could one one or two additional lots in our first year and we will see how things progress.
HD: What are alternatives for fans who do not have access to the pre-paid lots?
DH: Orange Avenue will be our fan-interaction area on the south end of the building, on Bastrop between McKinney and Walker. We will have food and beverage out there, along with games, music, etc. So that will be an opportunity for fans to not necessarily tailgate, but to come to the stadium early and enjoy the activities before the match.
HD: How helpful has the city of Houston been throughout this process?
DH: They were very supportive. These things are always a little more complicated than they seem and it’s important that we get this off to a good, safe start. They always understood the importance of this and what it means to have this soccer stadium downtown.