Stadium deal a long time coming

Thursday's lease agreement between the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority and the Dynamo ends almost five years of discussions and negotiations, which began almost immediately after the announcement of the Dynamo’s move from San Jose, Calif., to Houston on December 16, 2005. The stadium is expected to open in early 2012 and seat about 22,000 fans.

READ: HCHSA, Dynamo announce stadium agreement

The total project is expected to cost $95 million, with none of the money coming directly from taxpayers. The city acquired the land for $15 million in early 2008, ceding the land to the Dynamo for the construction process and to the HCHSA as the long-term landlord. The Dynamo’s ownership group – AEG, the Brener International Group, and former boxer Oscar De la Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions – and a contribution from Texas Southern University, whose football team will also play at the stadium, will provide the roughly $60 million estimated for construction costs. Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone 15, a public financing tool to encourage public-private partnerships which is based on increased tax revenue generated by the development of the stadium, is expected to provide for infrastructure improvements around the stadium.

Although the stadium, located across U.S. Highway 59 from Minute Maid Park and the George R. Brown Convention Center, is expected to be an economic boon for the East End – generating $163.5 million and roughly 1,500 jobs in the construction process alone, according to an independent study conducted by the Economics Research Association – county participation in the TIRZ had been a major stumbling block for more than a year, but it was finally approved by Houston City Council on April 7 and Harris County Commissioners Court on April 13.

Former Dynamo president / general manager Oliver Luck had spearheaded the push for the stadium, with new president Chris Canetti taking over most of the Dynamo’s presence in July. The club has hired Populous as the stadium architect, with Manhattan Construction Group executing the project, and ICON Venue Group serving as owner’s representative.

The new stadium will seat roughly 22,000 fans. The Dynamo have drawn almost 1.5 million fans for Major League Soccer and playoff games over their five years in Houston, an average of 17,924 per game. The stadium is expected to be the 11th stadium built for Major League Soccer, including one in Kansas City, Kan., set to open in 2011.

The stadium would be the fourth professional sports venue built in Houston since construction began on Minute Maid Park in 1997 but the first since the Toyota Center opened in 2003. Populous was the primary architect or involved with the other three projects, each of which cost more than $250 million and was financed mostly by public bond money, according to the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority.