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The Dynamo Stadium issue in the Mayor’s race

Moving away for the moment from ridiculous homophobic scare tactics in the Mayor’s race runoff to an issue of actual substance, we have the matter of the Dynamo Stadium deal and where the respective candidates stand on it.

[Annise] Parker supports the deal as structured by [Mayor Bill] White — in which, her campaign says, the city will recoup some costs for the land.

“She remains firmly opposed to any additional taxpayer dollars going to the Dynamo project, and will not entertain any new stadium projects, especially during these tough economic times. If the county does not do its part, then all bets are off,” according to a statement released by her campaign.

[Gene] Locke, too, pledges not to use property tax money, but he argues that a stadium built with mostly private money is something the city can’t afford not to pursue.

“This stadium will anchor development on the east side of town and help improve Houston’s economy at no additional cost to taxpayers,” Locke said in a statement released by his campaign. Locke supports the three-way $80 million plan, according to the statement, and also intends to negotiate for the city to be reimbursed for land costs.

I wouldn’t go quite as far as Bob Stein does in saying that the difference between the two is “politics, not policy”. As I see it, the place where they do differ is in the event that the county fails to pick up its share of the tab. My interpretation of their stated positions is that Parker may or may not pursue a different deal of some kind, whereas Locke would. One can certainly make the case that Locke, who has an extensive background with this kind of dealmaking – for good and for not so good – and who has the so-far-not-committed-to-Mayor-White’s-deal Commissioner El Franco Lee firmly in his camp, is in the stronger position to close this thing once and for all. That’s kind of a nuanced argument to make on a flyer handed out at a soccer game, and given the public’s limited understanding of the status of the actual deal, which if the comments on this Houston Politics post are at all indicative basically boils down to “Locke wants to spend money on a new stadium and Parker doesn’t”, it’s far from clear that this would be a net positive for him anyway. Be that as it may, I think it’s fair to say that if you really want to see a Dynamo Stadium get built, Locke is your candidate, and if you don’t really care all that much you probably prefer Parker.

That’s assuming the issue is critical to how you vote, of course. The Chron quotes one devoted fan for whom it is, and it’s certainly possible there are others like her. Whether there’s more of them than there are people who would vote the other way is not clear to me. It’s still worth a shot for Locke, and it’s certainly a preferable way to try to win than some other approaches.

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7 Comments

  1. Baby Snooks says:

    I doubt you are going to see a massive crowd of Hispanics at the polls voting for soccer. Who is running Gene Locke’s campaign anyway?

  2. John says:

    I wish one of the candidates would talk about the myth that building a stadium is some fabulous economic development strategy.

  3. Baby Snooks says:

    I wish one of the candidates would talk about the myth that building a stadium is some fabulous economic development strategy.

    __________________________________

    Well you never know. We might end up with a team that wins instead of loses and actually be able to fill a stadium with fans cheering them on. Something that has yet to happen in the other stadiums. All eyes turn to the teams. Not the stadiums.

  4. Matt says:

    @ John.

    Development projects of any kind will always be oversold by the developers themselves. This is nothing new whether you are talking about a sports stadium or an office building or a shopping mall.

    What is also true is that if the Dynamo are unable to make a deal in the city of Houston (their preferred location), they will have to consider their alternatives which would mean a high risk that the team relocates to the suburbs or another metro area altogether. That means that the city of Houston would lose the economic activity of all of their matches, plus things like youth soccer tournaments, any related development that might spring up around the stadium site (housing, bars, restaurants, etc.), a nice new facility that can be used for community purposes including the local college, and travel and tourism as a soccer destination in a world where soccer is a major industry and globalization is a happening.

    Even in studies that dispute the impact a stadium can have on rejuvenating a neighborhood by bringing new development (some stadiums have had this effect – AT&T Park in San Francisco is an example, while others have not), losing the team to the suburbs would mean that all of the money directly spent on Dynamo games would end up being spent in places like Sugarland or Woodlands, or Miami or St. Louis, and wouldn’t necessarily find their way back into Houston. Likewise, a stidum brings with it both construction jobs as well as seasonal and year-round job opportunities. That’s why municipalities see it in their best interest to compete for business development by offering incentives.

    What it comes down to is what is an appropriate public contribution towards a Dynamo stadium in Houston and how can the city make this opportunity a win-win for all parties? Here reasonable people can differ, but the Dynamo have offered to pay for the lion’s share of the costs in order to build in their preferred location, so I would not dismiss it out of hand. There have been a lot of really bad stadium deals made in different cities over the years, but this proposal should not be included with them as it is largely privately financed, with the limited public financing not coming out of the general fund and being re-imbursed over time by enhanced revenues from the stadium site.

  5. mlou says:

    I think FC Dallas’s Pizza Hut Park in Frisco is a great example of what a new stadium can do for a community. I bet Dallas wishes they had that revenue coming in.

  6. miguel says:

    i really think we need a .stadium

  7. miguel says:

    go locke

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