The Houston Dynamo are preparing to enter a new era with the opening of BBVA Compass Stadium on May 12. As the event approaches, Walker End Houston, an independent supporters association, is attempting to do the same in the stands.
The association was created to bridge the gap between supporters groups and fans that Chris Smink - a member of the organization’s executive council - called “independents” to create a fan base that acts under a unified banner to support the club.
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“In the past, there’s been a barrier between the supporters groups and the independent fans,” Smink told MLSsoccer.com on Saturday. “There was, ‘There’s us here and we’re proud of our identity.’ and then there’s independent fans that say ‘Why don’t they do what we do?’
“Walker End Houston is an association for all fans,” Smink continued. “It’s supporters groups and independent fans as well. It’s a community that involves everyone. The message is if you’re a Dynamo fan, you are a part of this community and we want you to participate.”
The association took their first steps last week with a meeting that was facilitated by the Dynamo and included three very special guests. Dynamo president Chris Canetti and stars Brian Ching and Brad Davis were on hand to show their support for what the organization is trying to do.
“We pitched the idea to [the Dynamo] a couple of weeks ago, and they were 100 percent supportive,” Smink said. “It was great having Brian and Brad out there. They talked about how much support means to them, and it was really good for fans to hear that support matters to them and we really are in their hearts. It helps reaffirm what you’re doing and that you’re not just delusional and we’re having an effect with those guys knowing we’re there for them.”
While the Dynamo’s help is appreciated, according to Smink the goal of the organization is to man the operation and champion the cause on its own. Smink told MLSsoccer.com that the organization plans to improve communication to provoke widespread fan participation in both the stands and in the community through the support of local charities. Smink outlined a plan to work with area youth soccer players with aspirations to join the Dynamo academy.
The end goal centers around creating a group of 22,000 fans in the stands that not only support the Dynamo but support each other and show that they can have one voice.
“Community is the key word here,” Smink said. “With the stadium opening, we saw a unique opportunity to leverage the buzz and excitement around the stadium. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bring everyone together as part of one community pulling in the same direction.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.