Houston, it appears we are closer to a stadium deal.
Four years after the San Jose Earthquakes relocated to Houston amid concerns that stadium talks in the Bay Area weren’t as hopeful as expected, the Dynamo on Tuesday moved one step closer to finalizing a deal for a stadium East of downtown Houston.
“We’re getting close to the proverbial finish line,” Dynamo president Oliver Luck said Tuesday. “We see the light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s not the light from an oncoming train.”
While any agreement ultimately will need approval, Luck the movement to build a new stadium will get the decisive signatures. With the Houston Chronicle reporting specific dates for each of the various entities beginning with the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority board on Thursday, dates certain for these approvals offer a definitive step forward opposed to the vague string of 60-90 day extensions and deadlines that have come and gone.
“Basically, we needed two big political entities, the city and the county to get involved,” Luck said. “We came to an agreement in principle and now we just need to legislatively enact it. It’s not just a fait accompli, but I have all the confidence in the world that folks will do what they have pledged to each other to do, so we’re getting close to the finish line.”
To help get the deal to the finish line, Luck was appreciative of the effort put in by new Houston Mayor Annise Parker as well as the outgoing mayor.
“Former Mayor Bill White did a great job of putting the framework together, but [the stadium] couldn’t get pushed over the finish line” Luck said. “The new mayor came in and, like a lot of big cities in this economy, the city is faced with several big issues. She said, though, that this is something that’s been on the backburner and we’ll make an effort in the first couple of months to try to resolve it. And she was able to do that, and we are very grateful for the work she’s been able to do.”
While the proposed location in Bellaire and other suburban locations were discussed, Luck has believed throughout the process that a stadium downtown is critical to the success of the team and the league with its supporters in Houston.
“The most important thing was to be ‘major league,’ and that means in our community to be downtown,” Luck said. “We’ve been able to see other stadiums and venues [in MLS] and get an idea with what works and what doesn’t work. We believed in order for the Dynamo to be successful and in order for MLS and soccer to grow, we needed to be next to our three big brothers, the Astros, the Texans and the Rockets. We had various locations that courted us but we felt we needed to make this work for the long term and that meant being in the thick of things.”
In the interim, Houston will continue to play at Robertson Stadium. While the venue has been more than adequate to serve the Dynamo in the short term, getting control over the additional streams of revenue from a potential new stadium and having control over the actual facilities has been an important goal for the club throughout.
“It’s important like it is to every MLS club to generate revenue and control the quality,” Luck said. “That’s been one of the biggest issues we faced playing in a college stadium. Not only were we not generating revenue, but we couldn’t improve on the quality of any services, whether it be parking, concessions or restroom facilities.”