Building a soccer-specific stadium has been a goal of both the Houston Dynamo and local government officials since the team arrived in Houston at the end of 2005. Saturday’s ceremonial ground-breaking marks the end of the negotiations and the beginning of construction of the only downtown soccer-specific stadium in the United States.
“The Dynamo organization has enjoyed many memorable moments in its first five years, but up until today, this moment has only been a dream,” said Dynamo president Chris Canetti. “Now, our dream is coming true, and with this moment, our very own stadium will soon be a reality. We couldn’t be more excited and thrilled."
The prime location will place the Dynamo – one of the city’s most successful franchises – in the heart of the Houston’s sports landscape, where they’ll be neighbors to the NBA’s Houston Rockets and MLB’s Houston Astros.
“It will make a really dynamic triangle with the Toyota Center, Minute Maid Park, and now the new Dynamo stadium – with the George R. Brown Convention Center right in the middle of the action,” said Houston Mayor Anise Parker, who was instrumental in getting the project going in regards to the political process.
[inline_node:327601]“This is big for the team, franchise, and MLS, but it is even bigger for all those kids that play soccer for the future,” said Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, who worked with Parker to get a deal done for the stadium. “It provides the nexus that we need to take soccer in Houston to the next level.”
The impact of the stadium will go far beyond the city. According to MLS Commissioner Don Garber, it will help dig the roots of the sport even deeper in North American soil.
“The ground-breaking for the Dynamo’s new stadium is another step forward in building the beautiful game in North America,” he said in a statement released on the club’s website. “Soccer-specific stadiums serve as true homes for the community, and these venues are placing permanent roots for the professional game in the United States and Canada.”
Saturday’s ground-breaking represents a light at the end of a very long tunnel for the Dynamo franchise and its players.
“This is my 11th year in the league, and nowadays I am one of the few guys in the league that can actually say that I do not have my own stadium,” said Dynamo defender Eddie Robinson. “There are so many bridges that you have to cross to get to this point. … Fifty or 60 people had to want this, and when you think about it, they accomplished something special.”
As one of the more successful teams in the league over the last six years, the two-time MLS Cup champions Dynamo have been waiting for this reward and are eager to reap the benefits that come with a stadium to call their own.
“I think it is wonderful,” said head coach Dominic Kinnear when asked about the affect that playing in their own stadium will have on the squad. “When you drive up to The Home Depot Center [home of the LA Galaxy and Chivas USA], and you go up that main road, you get butterflies and chills. Now our guys will get to experience that 17, 18 times per year.”
For the club, the real work begins now. The Dynamo will supervise the building of the stadium, for which construction is slated to begin immediately. With the target opening the venue in April 2012, it’s needless to say that the club will be on a tight schedule.
“It is a party to start [the stadium building process], but there will be a lot of hard work involved before we can have a party in it next year,” said Kinnear.
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on twitter at @Dynamoexaminer.