With eight months until the new Dynamo Stadium is set to open, HoustonDynamo.com caught up with the man in charge of running the new facility, Dynamo Stadium General Manager Doug Hall. Season tickets for the new Dynamo Stadium go on-sale to the general public on September 20.
HD: Tell us a little about your background, specifically in the stadium/arena business.
DH: I have been involved with the stadium/arena business since 1993 and have worked in a lot of different facilities. I spent five years at the Pittsburgh Civic Arena, which was the oldest NHL arena. After that I spent three years running the football stadium in Jacksonville, Florida. After going back to Pittsburgh, I transitioned to Houston when the Toyota Center went up and spent seven years there. The last two years I worked on the NCAA Final Four local organizing committee. I have never worked a soccer stadium before. It’s similar in a lot of ways to the other arenas I have worked in but also different in a lot of ways, so I’m looking forward to the opportunity.
HD: Can you expand a little on those similarities and differences?
DH: The planning/operations phase is very similar for all of them. Whether it’s an 18,000-seat arena or a 70,000-seat stadium, it's really all about the magnitude of the event. I’m looking forward to what I call a mid-size facility with 22,000 seats. It is larger than an arena, but smaller than an NFL stadium. You lose a lot of the intimacy and the ability to interact with customers and guest services staff in the larger stadiums. I think this is going to be a fun opportunity.
HD: What made you want to get involved with this project?
DH: Opening up new stadiums is a lot of fun. It’s a lot of hard work, a lot of crisis by fire but it’s also one of the things most people in this business aspire to do at least once. Fortunately, this will be my second one after having opened Toyota Center, which was a great opportunity. It’s a unique opportunity. There aren’t a lot of new stadiums being constructed in the United States right now. Any time you get a chance to jump on board with a fun project, particularly one where the team is a major tenant, that’s a great opportunity.
HD: How do you envision the new Dynamo Stadium fitting in with the other great stadiums already in Houston?
DH: I think Houston set the bar very high for great entertainment. When you look back to 2000 when Minute Maid opened up, every facility in the city was old. So over the past 12 years, we have completely changed not only downtown but the sporting environment here. We have a high bar to reach to deliver great customer service and a great fan experience. Houston has never had a soccer-specific stadium before, so I think people are going to be thrilled with the entertainment value, the affordability, the sightlines and really just the overall value of the new stadium.
HD: Why should fans be excited about this specific stadium?
DH: Fans in Houston are used to seeing soccer either at high school stadiums or Robertson Stadium. Most fans have never seen it played in a soccer-specific stadium. It’s the difference between watching baseball at the Astrodome and watching baseball at Minute Maid Park. It’s a completely different experience. This will be much more intimate, you will be closer to the action, there will be natural grass, great video replays, great entertainment value and a great proximity to the players. I think that is the one thing fans will be blown away with, how close they are to the action.
HD: What about Houston makes it such an ideal city for professional sports teams?
DH: I think it’s the diversity of our culture. For people who are not used to Houston and for people who are, you can see that diversity wherever you go and whatever you do. You have diverse opportunities with a diverse population and that bring a lot of different experiences. If you haven’t been to a soccer game and heard the supporters section, it really blows you away. I also think the proximity of the stadiums is huge. On any given weekend, you can go from an Astros game to across the street to Dynamo Stadium to then a Toyota Center event. That's a pretty cool opportunity.
HD: Are you already a soccer fan or do you expect this experience to turn you into one?
DH: I am coaching my 10-year-old son, so that makes me a soccer fan. First and foremost, I'm a sports fan. That’s how you get in this business, whether it’s managing stadiums or doing public relations for a team, you are a sports fan. At this point in my career I’m more a fan of great events and watching people have a great time at our sporting events. That’s what I really like to do. That gets me excited and this is going to be a great opportunity.