Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

Dynamo

Major League Rugby in Houston

Meet the Houston Strikers.

A group of rugby supporters are kicking around plans to build a rugby stadium in the area.

The ownership group behind the new Major League Rugby franchise the Houston Strikers is finalizing plans to develop a plot of land adjacent to the Houston Sports Park along TX-288 and south of Mowery Road. Now they’re sharing renderings of the $10 million rugby complex they’re looking to construct.

The Houston Dynamo and Houston Dash both practice at the complex which is ten miles south of downtown and just northwest of Pearland.

The Strikers would begin play in the city in 2018. The team would likely play in alternate parks as needed before their stadium is completed.

[…]

The group has started the lengthy permitting process necessary before construction can begin. The City of Houston is also on board and excited about a community outreach possibility with the neighboring areas starved for programs for kids. The two parties have signed a memorandum of understanding.

The new stadium would initially have room enough in bleachers for up to 5,000 fans, with plans for expansion to accommodate much more than that.

The Strikers are one of ten organizations around the country signed on to the Major League Rugby group. There are teams in Dallas and in Austin as well. Two more cities in other states are about to sign on, according to Turner.

Here are the Major League Rugby website and the Houston Strikers Facebook page. I confess, I’ve never seen a rugby game, and I’m pretty fuzzy on the rules. I might give it a try once the Strikers are in their new home. Any rugby fans out there? Swamplot has pictures, and This Is American Rugby has more.

Ching and the Dash

Good move.

A few weeks after he was sent into retirement with the first MLS testimonial match, the face of the Dynamo will attempt to build Houston’s new National Women’s Soccer League franchise.

Brian Ching will be the managing director of the NWSL’s Houston Dash. The role will be similar to a general manager’s position, but Ching’s duties will also entail being “the face of the team,” said Dynamo and Dash president Chris Canetti

“I’m excited about it,” said Ching, 35, who has an accounting degree from Gonzaga. “When I stopped playing, I didn’t think that I would be this excited about being in the front office. I think it’s a great opportunity for us to grow the Dynamo brand and make the Dash just as successful as the Dynamo both on and off the field.”

The Dash, who will play their inaugural season in 2014, begin preseason in March and play their season opener in April.

“He’ll work closely with me building this team from the ground up,” Canetti said of Ching. “I think it’s an unbelievable opportunity for him. He wants to be an MLS president one day. I think it’s awesome for the Dash as well.”

When the Comets debuted with the WNBA, they were owned by the Rockets – more specifically, by Les Alexander – but other than playing in the same building and occasionally having Rockets players attend games, there was no obvious tie in between the two franchises. The Comets wound up having enough star power on their own to establish themselves, but a little help from the better known brand never hurts. Having the most famous name from the Dynamo there in the beginning for the Dash makes all kinds of sense. I look forward to seeing who they hire to be their coach and who they get on their initial roster.

Meet the Houston Dash

They’re Houston’s newest sports team.

The Dynamo announced [Thursday] the launch of the Houston Dash, a women’s professional soccer team that will enter the National Women’s Soccer League as an expansion team for the 2014 season.

Owned and operated by the Dynamo ownership group, the Dash will begin play in April 2014 with the start of the second NWSL season, a 24-game schedule that includes 12 home games at BBVA Compass Stadium.

The NWSL is supported by the Canadian Soccer Association, Federation of Mexican Football and the United States Soccer Federation and is the top-flight women’s professional soccer league in North America, featuring many of the top players from the United States, Canada and Mexico, as well as talent from around the world.

“We are thrilled to have our very own NWSL franchise here in Houston,” Dynamo president Chris Canetti said. “It is an important addition to our sports landscape and will bring added value to our community.”

The Dash join the league as its ninth club and first expansion team. The eight other clubs are the Boston Breakers, Chicago Red Stars, FC Kansas City, Portland Thorns FC, Seattle Reign FC, Sky Blue FC, Washington Spirit and the Western New York Flash.

See here for the background. It originally looked like expansion wouldn’t happen next year, but apparently the timeline got moved up. There’s more in this story from the morning of the announcement.

The Houston women’s team will play at BBVA Compass Stadium and train at Houston Sports Park. The Dynamo front office will operate the NWSL team, but the MLS and NWSL clubs will have different coaching and training staffs.

BBVA Compass Stadium sits about 22,039 for Dynamo games, but only about a third of the stadium’s seating capacity will be in use for NWSL games.

“We’ll make it a capacity of 7,000, which would be lower bowl, suites and party deck and open up the presidents club,” Canetti said of BBVA Compass Stadium. “We’ll go on sale with season tickets immediately after the announcement to Dynamo season-ticket holders.”

[…]

The Dynamo gauged interest in the NWSL a few weeks ago by asking fans to put $25 deposits on season-ticket packages for a prospective NWSL team, and more than a 1,000 fans put deposits on season tickets.

“We got over 1,000, and I think it was a powerful statement with four days and little to no promotion other than social media,” Canetti said of the season-ticket deposits. “With no name and no players, to do that type of business in four days was very positive.”

Indeed it is. I like that I will have the option to take my girls to a women’s professional sporting event in town, which had been lost to me when the Comets folded. Even better, we ought to be able to get to these games via light rail, though maybe not in the inaugural season. I don’t know that I want to be a season ticket holder, but I’ll definitely put a Dash game or two on the calendar for next summer.

Bringing the NWSL to Houston

I approve of this.

The Dynamo are in talks about securing an expansion franchise in the National Women’s Soccer League, which features U.S. national team stars Alex Morgan, Hope Solo and Abby Wambach.

The eight-team NWSL played its inaugural season in 2013 with a commitment from the U.S., Canadian and Mexican women’s national soccer federations.

“We’re involved in the initial stages of this process and hope to learn more about the league and the opportunity over the next few weeks,” Dynamo president Chris Canetti said. “I’m a firm believer in women’s athletics. I think there is a place in the sports landscape for professional women’s sports.”

[…]

The NWSL’s 22-game schedule, which consists of 11 home games and 11 road matches, lasts from April to August. Seattle, Portland, Kansas City, Chicago, Washington D.C., Boston, New Jersey and Rochester have teams in the league. Houston would be the league’s first franchise in the Southwest.

If the Dynamo finalize their quest to land an NWSL expansion club, that team would play at BBVA Compass Stadium and train at Houston Amateur Sports Park, just as the men’s club does.

Houston ought to be a good fit for the league, and I’m sure the Dynamo would like to add a few extra dates to BBVA Compass’ calendar. It currently looks like expansion is a no go for 2014, so don’t look for this next season. Maybe by the time this is all worked out the Dynamo (and the Rockets and the Astros) will be broadcast on a channel that’s available to all of Houston. We can dream, right?

Sale of Dynamo to Les Alexander falls through

From the weekend:

Anschutz Entertainment Group has turned down Rockets owner Leslie Alexander’s offer to purchase the Houston Dynamo and the 30-year lease on BBVA Compass Stadium, effectively ending any further negotiations between the sides.

“Ownership evaluated the offer,” Dynamo president Chris Canetti said. “At the end of the day, they determined that they’re not prepared to accept the offer, thus meaning they will continue in their ownership.”

“(AEG) reiterated the commitment to the team and the stadium and the belief in both properties and are committed to both entities.”

For more than a month, Alexander had been in the final stages of negotiations to purchase the Dynamo and secure the 30-year lease and development agreement on new BBVA Compass Stadium, which opened in May.

As recently as two weeks ago, Rockets CEO Tad Brown expressed optimism about completing the deal.

Not sure what happened, because it sure sounded like a done deal when it was first reported. Too bad, I thought Alexander would have been a fine owner for them. I guess they’ll keep looking. Surely there’s some other rich dude in Houston who would like to own a professional sports team.

Les Alexander on the verge of buying the Dynamo

I like the thought of this.

Rockets owner Leslie Alexander is in the final stages of negotiations to purchase the Dynamo and secure the 30-year lease and development agreement on BBVA Compass Stadium, three officials with knowledge of the process said Thursday.

The deal is not complete, but the sides are close, said the three officials, who requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the talks.

Anschutz Entertainment Group owns 50 percent of the Dynamo. Oscar de la Hoya and Mexican billionaire Gabriel Brener own 25 percent each. AEG president Tim Leiweke’s spokesman, Mike Roth, declined to comment on the negotiations with Alexander. Brener is scheduled to be in Houston for the Dynamo’s game Sunday against Columbus.

The Dynamo are a good team, and Alexander is a good owner. The Rockets have had their share of setbacks in their effort to claw their way back to the elite of the NBA, but it’s not been the result of a lack of determination by Alexander and his crew. While the Dynamo aren’t exactly in dire need of a change of direction (that would be the Astros, though their recent change in ownership seems to have them on a better, if long and slogging, path) they could do a lot worse than having Les Alexander writing the checks. On a tangential and somewhat tendentious note, having Alexander and not Phillip Anschutz in control would make me feel better about buying Dynamo tickets since then my money would not be going to bad purposes. A win all around, as far as I’m concerned.

Tailgating downtown

Go for it!

The Dynamo have been playing at the University of Houston’s Robertson Stadium and have always allowed tailgating prior to games.

However, fans won’t have the same luxury at the soccer team’s new stadium because of a city ordinance against drinking in parking lots downtown.

The city ordinance prohibits an open container or public consumption of alcohol within the central business district, where the new Dynamo stadium is located.

Mayor Annise Parker and members of the City Council are working to provide soccer fans the same privileges that the Texans’ fans enjoy.

“Football has long had a tailgating culture, and soccer fans have a similar fan base that wants to engage in tailgating parties,” Parker noted. “We want to make it a great fan experience.”

The council will consider a proposal Wednesday that would create room in the ordinance for property owned or operated by a sports team to allow open containers and alcohol on the property.

The ordinance was approved unanimously on Wednesday – yes, even you-know-who let it by without a tag. This would also allow fans of the Rockets and Astros to get their tailgate on if they so chose; so far the Astros are thinking about it while the Rockets have not commented. Who knows, maybe this will start a new tradition. Hair Balls and the Chron soccer blog have more.

BBVA Compass Stadium

Dynamo Stadium gets a new name.

When the Dynamo first approached BBVA Compass before breaking ground on their new stadium, the two-time MLS Cup champions were looking for a loan to help finance the construction of the club’s venue on the East End.

Now, the bank will have its name and a note on BBVA Compass Stadium, which is set to open on May 12.

“I think the amazing thing is not that they financed it,” said Tim Leiweke, the president of Dynamo co-owner Anschutz Entertainment Group. “It’s not that they’re putting their name on it, but they’re the architects of how we ultimately figured out a way to pay for this without the taxpayers having to write a check. That’s where their real strength was.”

[…]

The Dynamo’s BBVA Compass loan covered the $20 million that was set aside through the inter-local agreement on the tax increment reinvestment zone (TIRZ) for infrastructure improvements on the site, which the city bought for $15.5 million under Mayor Bill White’s administration. Because the $20 million from the TIRZ is accumulated over years, the team needed to take a loan on the money last February in anticipation of getting the funds in the future.

A little more than 10 months after securing that loan with BBVA, the organizations furthered their relationships by announcing a 10-year, $20 million naming rights deal Wednesday.

Good for them, but if it’s all the same to you, I’ll keep calling it Dynamo Stadium. I’ve used that name for too long to change now. Be that as it may, congrats to the Dynamo getting this done. I look forward to their grand opening of the new digs/

More Sports Authority woes

The Harris County-Houston Sports Authority is dealing with more financial issues that may require it to dip way into its cash reserves.

Lawyers for the authority and MBIA now are disputing whether Swiss bank UBS gave proper notice of its intent to terminate the interest-rate swap agreement that would require the $27 million payment. The deal was intended to control interest-rate spikes on the $125 million in variable-rate bonds the authority issued to help build Reliant Stadium. The authority’s other $875 million in debt is on a fixed rate.

The authority’s main reserve account today holds about $51 million, Executive Director Janis Schmees said; the payment to UBS would come from that account.

Schmees said neither the payment nor a default by the authority would affect the average citizen or sports fan. The authority, a quasi-governmental entity whose unpaid board members are appointed by the city and county, was created to finance the stadiums, in part, so the city and county’s credit ratings would not be at risk in the event of financial trouble.

[…]

Barton Smith, professor of economics emeritus at the University of Houston, said the situation presents, at worst, an “indirect risk” that would have an “almost not detectable” effect on taxpayers.

“If they default, who’s it going to hurt? Well, it’s going to hurt the bondholders if they’re stupid enough to let them default,” he said. “The risk to us Houstonians … is that they couldn’t continue to carry out their functions without some type of Harris County bailout.”

A potential default would have no spillover effects on other governments, Smith said, because the factors that would lead the city or county to default have nothing to do with the authority’s situation.

In case you’re wondering what the HCHSA’s functions are these days, their Chair J. Kent Friedman was kind enough to tell us all about them in this op-ed from a few months ago. Frankly, other than being the Dynamo’s landlord I don’t think there’s much that would need to be replaced. As long as they can’t do any damage to the city or the county in the event they do go down, I’m not terribly worried.

Dynamo Stadium groundbreaking today

I presume things will be sufficiently de-iced for the ceremony today at 2 PM at the stadium site in the East End.

The stadium will have 22,000 seats, and the expansion capacity will be 30,000 over 340,000 square feet.

Populous, which was previously called HOK Sports, also designed Minute Maid Park, Toyota Center and Reliant Stadium. Like those three stadiums, the Sports Authority will be the landlord for the Dynamo’s new stadium.

“Although (it’s) a very simple idea of a stadium, but it gives really sort of a dramatic punch,” [Populous’ Loren] Supp said. “And I think it really sticks out when you look at other stadiums that have been built both for other sports and for soccer worldwide actually.”

You can see pictures there, at Swamplot, and of course on the Dynamo website, where they have a Q&A with the architect. It all sounds quite cool. And someday, barring any malicious acts of Congress, you’ll be able to get there via light rail.

Council gives final approval to Dynamo Stadium deal

The last hurdle has officially been cleared.

With two unanimous votes at City Council on Wednesday, the Dynamo cleared the last public hurdles they need to build their new stadium on the East End.

“I think it’s a very important step in the right direction and brings us much closer to finalizing all the pieces to the puzzle,” Dynamo president Chris Canetti said. “Our organization is very thankful to both the city and the county’s elected officials on the support of this project.”

The Dynamo will hold a groundbreaking ceremony Saturday from 2-4 p.m. It was originally scheduled for last Saturday, but was postponed for a variety of reasons, including a potential conflict with the Houston Marathon.

The Dynamo are investing $60 million of the cost to build the $95 million stadium. On Wednesday, Council approved what is estimated to be a $3 million rebate for the Dynamo over 30 years on projected sales tax. Council also approved the Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ) that is part of the inter-local agreement between the county and city.

Apparently, the rebate deal didn’t cause any particular heartburn on Council, so either they had some idea it was coming or decided it was OK regardless. Congrats to the Dynamo, and I hope things warm up a bit for them before the groundbreaking.

The Dynamo Stadium rebate plan

Well, this is interesting.

The city is poised to strike a 30-year deal giving back $3 million in projected sales tax to the Houston Dynamo as they prepare to construct their $60 million stadium.

City officials say the tax rebate always has been a part of the deal that kept the team from leaving Houston, one that will make the city and county owners of a new sports stadium for which they did not have to pay.

The rebate will amount to $3 million over 30 years, said Houston Chief Development Officer Andy Icken, a primary negotiator for the city on the deal.

“This was viewed as a trade-off to get this much public infusion for a stadium that, in the end, is getting donated to us,” Icken said. “We were never going to go into this unless there was a substantial private investment in the project.”

Icken said the deal mirrors sales tax rebates the city gave the Houston Texans when it negotiated over the future Reliant Stadium.

[…]

Icken denied that the rebate is a new element of the deal, pointing to a December memo he sent City Council members in which he said council would be asked to vote “to reimburse the team for a portion of sales and liquor taxes collected by the operations of the stadium.”

Councilman Mike Sullivan, who voted for the main elements of the deal struck last year between the city and Harris County, said he did not recall any discussion of such a rebate. “I think this evolved as negotiations have taken place with the city and the county, and we’re really just now seeing the changes,” he said.

First I’ve heard of it, too. It’s not really clear to me what this is about. It’s still the case that the Dynamo are spending the vast majority of the money to build the stadium, and it’s still the case that the deal is a good one overall, but the timing on this is lousy. The only thing I can say in its favor is that at least it came out before tomorrow’s Council vote.

Dynamo Stadium groundbreaking delayed

Groundbreaking for Dynamo Stadium was originally scheduled for this Saturday the 29th, but due to a delay with City Council it has been put off till next week.

Because the city council has not yet voted on the Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ) that is part of the inter-local agreement between the county and city, the Dynamo’s owners weren’t comfortable proceeding with the ceremony even though councilman Mike Sullivan and other city officials were confident that everything will be approved.

“This date was a moving target from the day we penciled it into the calendar,” Dynamo president Chris Canetti said. “We anticipated the possibility that it would change. We were pushing the envelope a little bit with this timeline, but we are not far off.

“We’ll set another date in the next few days. This does not have any impact on our construction timeline and planned opening of April 2012.”

Commissioner’s Court unanimously approved the TIRZ during Tuesday’s meeting, but the Dynamo were hesitant to proceed because the TIRZ issue wasn’t added to the City Council’s agenda for Wednesday’s meeting. The issue had to be placed on the agenda by last Saturday for this week’s meeting, but it will be placed on next week’s agenda.

Look for it to happen next Saturday, the 5th. Assuming the item makes it onto Council’s agenda and doesn’t get tagged, of course.

The Sports Authority wants you to know it’s working hard for you

I feel like the Chron should send a bill for its standard advertising rates to the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority for running this op-ed by its chair, J. Kent Friedman. It’s one part victory lap for negotiating the Dynamo Stadium lease and one part “Hey! Look at all this stuff we’re doing!” rah-rah. I like the Dynamo Stadium deal as much as the next guy, but the basic outline for it was in place long before the HCHSA got involved at El Franco Lee’s insistence earlier this year. As for the rest, nice work and all, but next time just send out a press release, OK?

On a side note, since the recent Port Commission kerfuffle, I thought it might be useful to examine the membership of the boards and commissions I happen to blog about. The Sports Authority board is thirteen members, six each chosen by Houston and Harris County, plus one – Chair Friedman – chosen jointly. Of the six board members selected by Harris County, five are white and one is African-American. Of the six chosen by the city of Houston, two are white, two are Hispanic, one is African-American, and one is Asian. Of the five non-white members on the board of 13, four were city of Houston appointments. Oh, and both of the women on the board – one white, one Hispanic – were City of Houston appointees. Just thought you’d like to know.

Dynamo Stadium lease deal reached

We didn’t get the World Cup, but soccer fans here had something to celebrate this week.

The Dynamo have agreed to pay $76 million to build a professional soccer stadium in downtown Houston and then lease it from the city and county for $65,000 a year.

The board of the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority, a joint city-county agency that acts as a pro sports stadium landlord, unanimously approved the deal Thursday morning. While the Dynamo will pay most of the cost of construction, the city and county will own the stadium.

Thursday’s approval sets the stage for construction to begin as early as next month just across U.S. 59 from the George R. Brown Convention Center.

The deal still has to be approved by Houston City Council and Commissioners Court, but I expect both to happen this month. Looking through the archives, the first mention I can find of “Dynamo Stadium” is just over four years ago, shortly after they had settled on the team’s name. You can’t say we’ve rushed this, that’s for sure. Construction is projected to take about 16 months, meaning the stadium may be open in time for the 2012 MLS season. In addition to being the home of the Dynamo and TSU football, the new stadium will also be a live music venue.

The Dynamo’s owners, entertainment giant AEG Worldwide, will be looking to book musical acts into the 22,000-seat stadium.

The Dynamo has worked out a somewhat informal non-compete clause with the Toyota Center, but there’s no such agreement with the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion.

The Pavilion’s capacity is about 17,000; with field seats the new stadium could hold 25,000.

“We’re a larger venue…Our parent company is AEG, that’s their business, live entertainment and they do a lot of musical shows across the country,” Canetti said. ” So I suspect that we’ll be looking to do a handful of shows if not more in the new stadium.”

Canetti noted the Pavilion’s success. “I think they have a niche both in terms of where they’re located and the size of the venue and I think we’re going to provide something that’s just a little bit different for everybody.”

Sounds good to me.

Dynamo Stadium on the agenda

The Sports Authority will meet this week to try to hammer out a lease agreement for the Houston Dynamo in their future stadium.

The Sports Authority will meet Dec. 2, but it won’t meet again until February, which is partly why the lease topic was placed on the agenda.

[Sports Authority Chair Kenny] Friedman said the lease was put on the agenda to give the Sports Authority a chance to vote on it if all the issues are resolved in the negotiations between the Sports Authority and the Dynamo.

I figure it’ll happen in time for the meeting. Deadlines have a way of focusing the mind.

Dynamo “Your Name Here” Stadium

In a conversation with the Chron, Tim Leiweke, the president of Dynamo co-owner AEG, discusses the next big item on their to-do list:

The naming rights is the next task at hand and it will be a hot priority, but we expect to be under construction at the end of the year. And believe it or not we are hopeful to open June 2012.

[…]

The naming rights become key because without them we are going to struggle on this project. We have made a decision not to tie everything into if we sell the naming rights. So much of the risk is going to be dependent upon the contractually obligated incomes that we are going to create in the stadium.

We have all of the agreements we need to sign and we have all of the revenue that we need to lock in and that is going to be an important part. We are fortunate that we have a bunch of people interested (in naming rights).

A couple of them are based here. They see this as an opportunity to be a good corporate citizen and at the same time it makes good financial sense to them. I think because of the nature we are financing this unlike any other stadium that we have built, people like the fact that we are stepping up in the private sector and bearing most of the load here.

They see themselves here as aligning with the right kind of project that won’t have a lot of controversy. They certainly see soccer as the sport of the future because 45 percent of the fans are Hispanic so we have a few of the companies that are very focused on our Hispanic audience.

Anyone want to try to guess whose name will eventually get attached to Dynamo Stadium? Let’s just hope they have better luck with this than the Astros had.

Dynamo Stadium coming along

A very brief update from the Chron:

Tim Leiweke, the president of Dynamo co-owner AEG, told the Chronicle that the Dynamo’s negotiations for a new stadium are completed for the most part and that he expects to break ground at the end of the year for the East End stadium scheduled to open in June 2012.

For all the time it took to get to this point, they deserve to have smooth negotiations and hassle-free construction.

Dynamo Stadium design

Wondering what the new Dynamo Stadium will be like? The Chron has some early information.

“We hope to be on site with a shovel in the ground by the end of this year,” said Dynamo general manager Oliver Luck, who took the primary role in lobbying county and city officials to help fund the $95 million project.

[…]

More than that, the Dynamo are excited to be downtown. As far as they’re concerned, the East End is prime real estate as they continue their quest to cement the franchise in the hearts of Houston sports fans.

“I think it’s a great location,” [Dynamo forward Brian] Ching said. “I’m just extremely excited that we got it downtown. Give credit to Oliver. He could have made a decision to go to the suburbs any time, and he didn’t. Being downtown adds a little to the credibility of a professional organization being right there.”

[…]

The playing field is expected to be 13 feet below grade, and the lower bowl will be cast in place concrete. The upper bowl will extend above grade.

Also, like nearby Toyota Center and Minute Maid Park, the major concourse will be at grade. As Astros fans do when they show up for a home game, Dynamo fans will enter the stadium through the main concourse on ground level.

The Dynamo plan to have a roof canopy on the east and west sidelines to protect fans against the sun and rain.

I’m looking forward to seeing what they come up with. I plan to attend some games once they’re in the new location, which is something I haven’t done before.

The story is wrapped around the question of how the new stadium will benefit area businesses. I don’t think there’s any question that it will be good for them, it’s a matter of how much. Note that this does not in any way contradict the research of sports economist Andrew Zimbalist, as he focused on the economic impact of a metropolitan area. Given that one effect is to relocate economic activity from one area to another, it seems likely that businesses in that area will benefit.

One thing to keep an eye on, which is also something Zimbalist talks about, is how often this stadium actually gets used. Between the Dynamo and TSU football, you’re talking 25 to 30 games a year. That’s a lot of idle time to fill to maximize the value of the place. What other events can and will eventually take place there? Since the Dynamo will make the largest investment in this construction, they’ll have a strong incentive to find that out and make it work for them.

Don’t play ball with the state of Arizona

What Kevin Blackistone says.

About 10 years ago, the NCAA made one of its most bold and upright decisions: it refused to allow any more of its postseason tournaments, like March Madness, to be held in South Carolina until the state stopped flying the banner of the long defeated racist Confederacy in the face of 21st century societal progress.

NCAA spokesman Bob Williams explained at the time that the organization wanted to “ensure that our championships are free from any type of symbolism that might make someone uncomfortable based on their race.”

As such, it is time for the governors of college athletics to expand their postseason ban. Arizona should be next, immediately.

The University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., should lose the BCS National Championship Game scheduled to be played there next January unless Arizona legislators rescind soon and for good an anti-immigration law they just passed that gives police the right to stop and search for documents anyone police suspect of being in the country illegally.

After all, that law means racially profiling people who appear to be Hispanic, no matter what Arizona lawmakers claim. That means making an entire group of people, as the NCAA spokesman said, uncomfortable in Arizona because of their heritage. That’s unquestionably wrong.

In my previous post, I mentioned former Arizona Governor (and world class bozo) Evan Mecham, whose racist antics cost his state a Super Bowl, among other things. Evan Weiner recalls that, and notes that there are other sporting events that may – ought to – be yanked until the Arizona Lege makes amends.

The Glendale, Arizona stadium, that is the home to the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals and hosted the 2008 Super Bowl, is one of the 18 cities that has been proposed for use by USA Bid Committee in an effort to win the FIFA World Cup in either 2018 or 2022.

Houston is on that list as well, with the Dynamo ownership being on the USA Bid Committee. Note to local activists: Why not put a little pressure on the Dynamo to raise a stink about this? If there’s going to be any real blowback against Arizona for this bit foolishness, it’s got to come from the grassroots, and this is a good entry point. Here’s their contact info:

HOUSTON DYNAMO FRONT OFFICE

1001 Avenida de las Americas, Ste. 200
Houston, TX 77010

Phone: (713) 276-7500
Fax: (713) 276-7572
E-mail: info@houstondynamo.com

Twitter
Facebook

Let them know, politely, that you don’t want any Arizona city included on the USA Bid Committee’s list for the FIFA World Cup, and that you would like the Dynamo to take a stand on the matter. If you’re a Dynamo fan, especially if you’re a season ticket holder, make sure they know that as well. They have an interest in keeping their fans happy. Obviously, the Dynamo haven’t done anything wrong, but this is how stuff gets done.

And Astros fans can get involved, too.

Major League Baseball is set to hold its 2011 All-Star Game in Phoenix, where the Diamondbacks play, and activists are calling on MLB to pull the game out of Arizona in protest of the new law. The idea is being espoused by activist bloggers at Daily Kos and Change.org, hosting a petition on its website to move the All-Star Game out of Arizona.

Some are calling on baseball fans to boycott at least one MLB game. A Facebook group is specifically calling on fans to boycott the Arizona Diamondbacks’ May 7 home game against the Milwaukee Brewers. The group wants the D-Backs to state a position on the new law.

There’s hashtag, #AZMLBB, being used on Twitter for discussion of this movement.

Unfortunately, the Astros do not display Contact information as prominently as the Dynamo do, so you may have to figure out the best way to let them know how you feel yourselves. They’re on Facebook here. As with the Dynamo, they too will want to keep their fans happy. Stace has more.

One last time for the Dome and the Dynamo

I suppose now that the Dynamo have finally gotten an official commitment from all relevant parties to go forward with their downtown stadium idea that it was inevitable the question of why didn’t they just use the Astrodome came up again one last time. The answers really should be obvious, but let’s go over them again for old time’s sake.

Dynamo President Oliver Luck answers the question with questions of his own: What conditions would be imposed by Reliant Park’s other tenants, namely the rodeo and the Texans? Are certain dates blocked? What’s the infrastructure like inside the domed stadium?

It costs money and time to get answers, and Luck said he would need to know them before addressing the biggest question of all: “Would $60 million get you anywhere with the Astrodome?”

Willie Loston, executive director of the Harris County Sports & Convention Corporation, which runs the Astrodome and the rest of the Reliant Park complex, said any conversion of the Dome would be “some multiple” of the $32 million still owed for the aging ballpark’s 1980s renovations.

“You’d have to consider it a substantial renovation project,” Loston said.

A building with 60,000 seats would need to be configured for 30,000 for soccer, turf would have to be installed and the building would have to be brought up to fire and building codes.

“It certainly is more than just hanging a Dynamo banner on the outside and starting to play games in there,” Loston said.

Right on queue, there’s a letter to the editor today from someone asking the “why not the Dome for the Dynamo” question. I’ve discussed this before, and to me it’s always come down to a simple question: Why would the Dynamo want to put $60 million or more of their own money into a stadium that isn’t a good fit for them and would likely cost a whole lot more than that to make it into something that might be? The Dome as configured would be a lousy fan experience and would cost too much to operate. Converting it into something suitable would be very expensive, and the end result might not look anything like what some folks are hoping to preserve. Far as I could tell, in all this time there’s been very little overlap between those who ever had attended or ever might attend a Dynamo game, and those who wondered why they just didn’t use the Astrodome. Maybe now people will finally stop asking about it. Elsewhere in the Chron, Council Member James Rodriguez sings the praises of the downtown stadium-to-be, and soccer writer Jose de Jesus Ortiz sings the praises of Dynamo President Oliver Luck.

Once again mulling the fate of the Astrodome

Am I the only one who noticed the omission in this story about the current state of the Astrodome?

Debt and interest payments will amount to more than $2.4 million this year, according to a payment schedule for the higher debt estimate. The Astrodome’s manager estimates it also will cost $2 million for insurance, maintenance, utilities and security.

The debt likely would have to be reckoned with in any deal to redevelop the Astrodome, said Willie Loston, executive director of the Harris County Sports & Convention Corporation, which the county created to run the Reliant Park complex.

But no deal to restore what once was known as the “Eighth Wonder of the World” is likely to be affected by $32 million, Loston said.

“Practically anything that would be done with the building would be some multiple of that,” Loston said. “It’s not enough to make or break a development proposal.”

Not a word is mentioned about any specific redevelopment project. Nothing about the planetarium, the movie studio, or the convention center. Does that mean all these ideas are now officially dead, and that the most likely but still only spoken about in whispers outcome is this? You tell me.

That story was also about Commissioners Court finally getting around to the matter of the Dynamo Stadium deal. As expected, they approved it.

County Judge Ed Emmett emphasized that the Dynamo deal differs sharply from past stadium projects in which taxpayers picked up a much greater share of the tab.

“This is a team building its own stadium,” Emmett said.

Nor does the Dynamo deal cost any general fund money, Emmett and other county officials reaffirmed. Instead, a redevelopment zone will be created around the stadium so that future increases in tax receipts in the neighborhood will be funneled back into the project.

[…]

Much remains to be done before construction begins in October for a planned 2012 opening.

“This is, practically speaking, an agreement to agree,” said David Turkel, who as director of the county’s community services department is negotiating the deal with the city.

The Dynamo and the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority must negotiate a lease for the soccer team’s use of the stadium. The city and county must also formally approve the creation of the redevelopment zones.

It’s still a significant step forward, and it ought to be a lot easier from here now that the basic framework is in place. Enjoy the moment, Dynamo fans, it’s been a long time in coming.

Library hours to be cut back

No surprise here.

Hammered by $2.2 million in budget cuts, the Houston Public Library system this month will reduce its hours by 28 percent — closing most of its 42 branches on Saturdays — and trim expenditures for library materials.

[…]

Reduced hours will go into effect on April 17.

Most libraries will now be open 51 hours a week instead of the current 71. In addition to the shortened hours, expenditures for books, recordings and other library materials will be cut by 6 percent.

[Library director Rhea] Lawson said 42 vacant staff positions will not be filled, resulting in a 9 percent reduction in library system staffing. Most of the lost positions are those of librarians and others who interact with the public. Additionally, Lawson said, a hiring freeze has been implemented.

The thing to remember is that this is the easy stuff. It’s when cuts to police and fire service have to be contemplated, as they will given that they make up over 60% of the city budget, that it gets hard. The next year or two are going to be a whole lot of no fun.

By the way, there were six letters to the editor yesterday bemoaning the library cuts. I’m a little surprised that it provoked that much of a reaction, but I’m not surprised that three of those letters said some variation of “how can the city cut back on libraries when it’s building a new stadium?” Of course, the city isn’t actually spending any money to build Dynamo Stadium – the Dynamo ownership is financing the construction. Generally speaking, it’s considered a good thing for a city when a private company pledges to spend $60 to $80 million on a construction project. The city did spend money to buy the land, but that was in 2008, and thus has no effect on this fiscal year. Indeed, when Commissioners Court approves the deal, one piece of that is that the county will reimburse the city for half of the money it spent on that purchase. Finally, the city created (and the county will create) a TIRZ that will be used for street and drainage improvements, some of which are needed for the construction. Those things don’t exclusively benefit the stadium, and again they aren’t on the books for this fiscal year. The point I’m trying to make here is that the Dynamo Stadium deal and the cutback in library hours have nothing to do with each other. This is a big disconnect, and it has the potential to be a political problem for people down the line.

Commissioners Court to vote Tuesday on Dynamo Stadium deal

One presumes that since they were the holdup on this, the fact that they’re finally bringing it to a vote means it will go through.

“I expressed concern (weeks ago) when we started getting this kind of Christmas tree built with all other things added to it,” County Judge Ed Emmett said Friday. But he said he now supports the package with its limitations on the Authority’s role and language that does not commit the county to any specific projects in the Reliant and jail-area redevelopment zones.

Though Precinct 1 Commissioner El Franco Lee has publicly insisted that a soccer stadium deal is not his to make, both city and county officials have described him as a driving force behind it. On Thursday, Mayor Annise Parker credited “Commissioner El Franco Lee’s leadership in moving this project forward” during her State of the City speech on Thursday.

Lee could not be reached for comment Friday, though he put the deal on the agenda and the proposed stadium project is largely in his precinct.

Commissioner Sylvia Garcia, whose Precinct 2 contains a sliver of the stadium project, has publicly announced her intention to vote for the deal.

That makes a majority. In the end, it’ll likely be unanimous. Neither of the other Commissioners has said they oppose the deal, and in the usual tradition of the Court, that’s good enough. From here it should just be a matter of setting a date for the groundbreaking.

Council approves Dynamo Stadium deal

Two down, one to go.

The Houston City Council unanimously approved an agreement this morning that is expected to pave the way for a new professional sports stadium for the Houston Dynamo and the Texas Southern University football team.

Although some council members voiced concerns about the finances of the $95 million public/private project, many came to view the deal to be in the city’s best interest.

[…]

The next step in the process will be Tuesday at Harris County Commissioners Court when the deal has to be approved by the county.

The first step was the Sports Authority agreeing to be the landlord. For those who are mumbling about spending money on a stadium at a time like this, note that the city spent the money to buy the land for the stadium site two years ago, and that part of the deal with the county is for them to kick in for half of that. In addition, having the Dynamo spend $60 million or so to build the stadium, at a time when the city has been bleeding construction jobs seems like a pretty decent little stimulus project to me. Just something to consider.

Dynamo Stadium deal tagged

While City Council was able to complete the Lakewood Church sale, they were not able to vote on the other major real estate deal on their agenda this week, as Council Member Jarvis Johnson put a tag on the Dynamo Stadium deal.

Johnson said he delayed the vote out of concern the stadium could put the city in violation of its contract with the Houston Rockets that no other municipal venue would be used to compete for major events, such as concerts, through 2013.

Last week, Johnson attended a committee meeting at which Andy Icken, the city’s chief development officer, assured him that no events outside of Dynamo soccer and TSU football would be permitted at the new stadium through 2013, to avoid any conflict with the Rockets.

I don’t know what CM Johnson’s issue was, but if we’ve learned anything about Council by now it’s that tags are just a fact of life. It’s not clear that this will have any effect on the hoped-for completion in time for Opening Day 2012, but it did lead to this:

Councilman James Rodriguez, whose district encompasses the stadium’s planned location, expressed disappointment at the delay.

“I just wish that when council members have questions, that they would be addressed in the committee process, not this late in the game,” Rodriguez said.

Without further comment, he then tagged two items involving Johnson’s district.

And to think, some people believe politics is boring.

Sports Authority to become Dynamo Stadium landlord

One of the items on the to-do list after the city and county struck a deal on Dynamo Stadium was for the team to negotiate a lease for the stadium. The Harris County-Houston Sports Authority was proposed as the landlord, and now they have formally agreed to take that role.

The city and county asked the sports authority to negotiate a lease of publicly owned land to the Dynamo, to oversee construction and to run the completed stadium. The authority’s board unanimously passed a resolution to take on those tasks.

“This is kind of the last piece of the puzzle,” said David Turkel, director of the county’s Community Services Department. “Now that we have everything in place, our governing bodies can formally consider it.”

Attorneys for the three agencies will craft details of a formal agreement. The City Council, Commissioners Court and the authority board are scheduled to act on the deal in the next three weeks.

So there you have it. Start making plans for the groundbreaking ceremony. It’s all over but for the construction at this point.

Dynamo Stadium deal finally struck

Took ’em long enough.

The city of Houston and Harris County have struck a potential deal on a new stadium for the Houston Dynamo and Texas Southern University’s football team, agreeing to jointly pay for $20 million in infrastructure upgrades if the soccer team follows through with a commitment to foot the bill for the $60 million stadium construction costs.

The deal, outlined today in a City Council committee meeting, ended years of negotiations that began when the city purchased a $15 million parcel of land in January 2008. The county has agreed to pay for half those costs to finance the stadium, which would be built, pending approval from City Council and Commissioner’s Court, on land just east of Downtown bordered by Texas Avenue, Walker Street and Dowling Street.

So in the end it took a lot longer than it should have to wind up with what everyone thought it would be at the beginning. In other words, a lot like the health care reform bill, but with fewer Armageddon references and no frivolous lawsuits. Yet.

There are things that still need to be done.

Among the items on the to-do list:

• The Dynamo have to negotiate a lease;

• A new tax increment zone must be created, and the county must join it;

• The stadium’s parking must accommodate Astros parking as well.

“There are about 10 different agreements,” [City of Houston Chief Development Officer Andy] Icken said.

First things first, the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority must agree to take on the role of negotiating with the Dynamo, which will be addressed at the board meeting on March 25.

Then the stadium could come back on the council agenda next week and Harris County Commissioner’s Court in two weeks.

There’s also the tricky matter of routing the East and Southeast light rail lines around the stadium site, but I suppose that’s a job for Metro. Good thing they have someone on the board who’s already thought of a good solution to that. If all goes well, the pieces should all be in place for construction to start in October and be finished in time for the Dynamo’s 2012 season opener. Assuming other factors have worked themselves out, anyway. Rick Casey has more.

Here comes the Sports Authority

Ready or not, here they are to ride to the rescue.

The Harris County-Houston Sports Authority agreed Monday to talk to city and county officials about its possible involvement in a soccer stadium for the Houston Dynamo.

The authority will establish a task force to determine its response to an invitation from the city and county to take “a limited administrative role” in a stadium for the Dynamo. Board Chairman J. Kent Friedman said the task force will be charged with finding out what that its role would be and recommending to the board whether to accept it. It will not involve any tax money from the authority. There is no deadline for the task force to finish.

I still don’t think the Sports Authority is really needed, but if it’s the only way to get El Franco Lee to take action, then I guess that’s how it is. We’ll see if it actually leads to something.

Sports Authority to the rescue?

After many months in limbo, there may finally be a way forward for Dynamo Stadium, though it’s a somewhat convoluted path.

The Harris County-Houston Sports Authority board is scheduled on Monday to discuss becoming the landlord for a professional soccer stadium in Houston’s East End.

[…]

[Harris County Commissioner El Franco] Lee repeatedly has said that putting the soccer stadium on the Commissioner Court agenda is not his responsibility. Most of the proposed stadium site is in Lee’s Precinct 1, and the five-member Court consistently adheres to a protocol that puts each commissioner in charge of public works projects on his or her turf.

On Friday, just more than a week after [Mayor Annise] Parker and Lee met, a joint Houston-Harris County statement announced, “Both the City and County have asked the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority to take a limited administrative role in construction of a stadium.”

Harris County Community Services Department Director David Turkel, who has been the county’s lead negotiator on a stadium deal with the city, acknowledged it was Lee who asked that the Sports Authority get involved.

Should the Sports Authority’s board decide Monday to become a player in the deal, it would bring to the table an agency whose board is chaired by Lee’s campaign treasurer, J. Kent Friedman.

Sheesh. Swamplot quotes from a Houston Business Journal article that adds more:

Lee has steadfastly refused to comment on the issue, and did not respond to interview requests. Speaking in Lee’s place during several recent interviews, Turkel has become more guarded, citing the delicate situation and his desire to avoid hampering a possible agreement. In a nutshell, though, Lee wants concessions from the city and the team that he has not yet received.

“Lee is not comfortable putting it on the agenda as is, because it will get voted down,” Turkel says.

For one, the county is looking at who will own the stadium after the lease runs out in about 30 years, and how that would affect a deal in which the city would buy out the county’s share. Precinct 2 Commissioner Sylvia Garcia wants Dynamo family ticket packs priced comparably to movie tickets, which has been more or less agreed upon.

That quote from Turkel just doesn’t square with the way Commissioners Court runs its business. Wanting to get the Sports Authority involved, that makes more sense. It may be a logical move and a good fit to do this, but I think Judge Emmett is right to be concerned that it won’t make the politics of this deal any more popular. It’s also not clear what exactly the Sports Authority would be doing if it gets involved or why their involvement is needed. If they were an obvious piece of the puzzle, you’d think they’d have been mentioned before now. But if the bottleneck is El Franco Lee, and El Franco Lee says he wants the Sports Authority involved to get this moving, well, you do the math. We’ll see what comes out of Monday’s meeting.

Bellaire officially opposes Dynamo Westpark Stadium

Bellaire City Council unanimously passed a resolution Monday night that opposes the construction of a Dynamo Stadium on Westpark.

“To ignore it and not speak up for our residents would be the wrong thing to do,” said Mayor Cindy Siegel, after introducing the resolution, which stated:

“Whereas, the proposed Midway stadium site is not compatible with the existing Bellaire and Houston residential neighborhoods that surround this site and would negatively impact their quality of life with significant noise, traffic gridlock, cut-through traffic, event parking on the CenterPoint Energy easement immediately adjacent to Bellaire and Houston homes’ backyards, and overflow event parking on Bellaire and Houston residential neighborhood streets.”

The council vote came on the heels of continued negative reaction from residents after news of the Midway proposal surfaced in late January.

“The Dynamo stadium in that area would be a logistical nightmare,” said resident Cynthia Freeman to the council.

Councilman Will Hickman said he conducted a survey of 110 residents on the issue and revealed that 89 percent of the respondents oppose any stadium plan near city limits.

Mayor Siegel was an early opponent of this idea. The proposed location is outside the Bellaire city limits so the resolution has no force, but it is a pretty clear expression of what the locals want. Given that the folks on the East End are strongly in favor of the original downtown stadium idea, perhaps this will give that project another nudge. Dynamo President Oliver Luck certainly hasn’t given up on that.

Dynamo President Oliver Luck said the council’s resolution doesn’t change his thinking because he is already trying to make the downtown site work.

“We won’t say no to any other reasonable proposals until we have a shovel in the ground but certainly the East End has been our focus,” Luck said.

So you’ve got one location for which nearly all of the pieces are in place and there’s community support, and another location that would have to start from scratch and overcome opposition from its closest neighbors. Makes you wonder why we’re even having this conversation, doesn’t it? Instant News Bellaire has more.

East Enders appeal to El Franco

As we know, the main holdup with the proposed East End location for Dynamo Stadium is that County Commissioner El Franco Lee, in whose precinct the stadium site mostly sits, has not indicated that he intends to put the issue on the Court’s agenda. At this week’s meeting, he heard from some constituents who want to see this move forward.

Residents of the Houston East End said Harris County Commissioner El Franco Lee was the key to the construction of a stadium for the Major League Soccer team Houston Dynamo — and accused him of stalling the project.

“Without the Dynamo I don’t think [this area] can survive,” said Khen Ly, the owner of the Kim Sung supermarket, east of Downtown Houston.

Residents pushed Harris County commissioners to sign off on the project Tuesday morning, but Lee refused to take a stand when pressed by East End resident Marilu De La Fuente.

“Mister [Lee], you are known as the Godfather,” she said. “I know know you will do the right thing.”

Much of the 12-acre site proposed for the stadium sits in Lee’s county precinct. He has stayed quiet on the subject for months. Again on Tuesday, he dodged reporters who wanted to ask him about his position.

It would be nice to have some idea of what Commissioner Lee’s reluctance is all about so that it might be addressed if possible, but he has never said. This is Senate-quality dithering here. All I can say to those of you in the area is to keep up the pressure. One presumes that sooner or later he’ll feel the need to deal with it. Thanks to Houstonist for the link.

“There’s no such thing as a project like this without public money”

Dynamo President Oliver Luck throws a little cold water on the claims that a Westpark Stadium could be built exclusively with private funding.

“We have not been presented a plan by the Midway Companies,” Luck said. “I can’t say whether there’s ‘no public money’ involved.

“We (the Dynamo) won’t talk to the city or county about this deal — we have pushed that responsibility to Midway. We know what our conditions are, and basically, it’s replicating the financial structure of the downtown deal. That’s sort of a threshhold question. If they can do that, we’ll go ahead. If they can’t, it won’t happen.”

[…]

Midway recently completed a major mixed-use development in the Memorial area, City Centre, where there is a TIRZ — a tax increment reinvestment zone — in place with the city of Houston, that reinvests some property taxes into infrastructure improvements to help spur development.

Sources familiar with the Midway proposal say it is relying on extending a similar TIRZ in the Uptown/Galleria area, which ends at Highway 59, to encompass the Midway property south of Westpark.

That was news to John Breeding, who serves as executive director of both the Uptown TIRZ and Uptown Development Authority, who said neither agency is involved and is waiting to hear more.

Which comes around, again, to Oliver Luck, who knows a thing or two about stadiums from his four years as CEO of the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority. “There’s always infrastructure involved, public services that need to be provided,” he said. “There’s no such thing as a project like this without public money.”

Well, yeah. As I’ve said all along, it’s a matter of how much money the city and maybe the county would have to invest to make this happen, and whether or not that would wind up being less than what the East End stadium would require. Until there’s a real proposal on the table, we can’t make that evaluation. In the meantime, claims about “private financing” just distort the picture.

It should also be noted that the East End stadium deal is much farther along, and really just needs buy in from County Commissioners El Franco Lee and Sylvia Garcia. That deal could be completed quickly if they signed off on it. Residents in the area, who are facing the prospect that the city might view the location as suitable for a new jail facility if the stadium deal falls through, are pushing for it to get done. There’s no organized opposition to the East End proposal, while the Westpark concept would have to overcome pushback from Bellaire Mayor Cindy Siegel and possibly others. The bottom line is that if any stadium deal happens, the East End is still the heavy favorite to be the choice. David Ortez has more.

Finally, on a related note, freshman Bellaire City Council Member Corbett Parker, who has expressed support for the Westpark location and who is a friend of Oliver Luck, explains his relationship with Luck and the Dynamo.

Bellaire versus Westpark Stadium

Still more on the proposed Westpark location for Dynamo Stadium: The Mayor of Bellaire doesn’t like the idea.

[Bellaire Mayor Cindy] Siegel has scheduled an executive session of the Bellaire City Council Monday following the 7 p.m. State of the City address and indicated she’s optimistic other councilmembers will join her in opposing the 20,000-seat stadium that would reportedly double as a concert venue and feature a 3,000-vehicle parking structure.

“I would hope council would see the negative impact and would listen to residents, who I’m already hearing from by e-mail,” Siegel told the Examiner.

In that interview, she called the plans by the Midway Companies “a betrayal of the vision” that had been worked out among Bellaire, Metro, Thompson + Hanson Nursery and Midway. Those parties had funded an architect’s conceptual plan for a transit-oriented development at the location, in the southwest corner of the 610/59 intersection, bordered on the north by Westpark Drive.

But [County Commissioner Steve] Radack says Bellaire doesn’t have to sign off on the deal, and that he sees support for the private funding.

“Bellaire does not have jurisdiction over any of this…If this deal gets worked out then there will be a whole lot of citizens a lot happier by seeing private money being spent than public money being spent,” he told the Examiner’s Steve Mark.

Sounds an awful lot like Radack is telling Siegel to sit down and shut up. It’s true that this location is not inside Bellaire, but it’s right next to the boundary line, and for sure a stadium there would have an effect, mostly negative, on Bellaire. Mayor Siegel’s letter to Midway CEO Brad Freels lays it out:

Quite frankly, Brad, I have to tell you that I was blindsided by your company’s proposal to use your land at S. Rice and Westpark for a Dynamo stadium. This proposal is completely contrary to what was envisioned for the transit oriented development that included your property and the Bellaire Research and Development District (RDD) when Bellaire, Metro, Thompson and Hanson, and Midway shared the cost of an architect to develop a conceptual plan for a transit oriented development at this location. As I have stated at every joint meeting that your company has attended with Metro and City of Bellaire officials – our primary concern has always been to protect the integrity of the Bellaire residential neighborhood directly south of this site, in addition to protecting the interests of the Bellaire property owners in the RDD.

In reviewing your plans further over the weekend and driving by the site Monday during the day and rush hour traffic in the evening. I cannot see any benefit to locating a soccer stadium (that would also be used as an outdoor entertainment facility) at your site. I believe strongly that the proposed stadium site on your property has serious limitations and will have an extremely negative impact to the residential Bellaire and Houston neighborhoods that adjoin your property and the RDD. As we discussed, the S. Rice and Westpark intersection already experiences significant delays due to traffic backups. (This traffic problem has been discussed several times in prior meetings regarding the placement of a Metro Rail transit station here.) Additionally, traffic backs from Fournace on the 610 Feeder road up to Westpark daily during evening rush hour. A stadium at this site would just increase exponentially what is already a significant traffic problem!

Additionally, there is an existing traffic problem at the 610 and 59 interchange that has been a tremendous drain on emergency personnel responding to accidents that would be compounded further if the stadium was built on your site. Bellaire and Houston emergency personnel (but primarily Bellaire) already respond s several times a day to accidents at this location. To add stadium traffic to what is already a horrible problem would be a financial and manpower resource burden that Bellaire cannot accommodate.

My in-laws live near there, so I can attest to the traffic issues in that area from personal experience. I do think that the University line will help to abate that somewhat, but it won’t be enough. Besides, last I checked that area wasn’t very walkable, so either parking is going to have to be right there, or a whole lot of money is going to have to be spent on infrastructure improvements. In response, Freels and Radack appear to be telling Mayor Siegel that she shouldn’t worry her little head about it.

The Midway site is in Radack’s Precinct 3.

“I think that that (Midway) area needs a shot in the arm and I believe when the Dynamo are playing, it’s not peak times for traffic,” Radack said.

Freels made much the same point.

“I think when she understands the plan in toto she’ll embrace it,” Freels said. “I wish she would have full information before she makes full judgment.”

Well, maybe if fuller information were available, we could all make fuller judgments, but how much more do you need to know to say this is going to affect traffic in that area? As for Radack’s pronouncement, looking through Dynamo schedules for past years (the 2010 schedule hasn’t been published yet), they have played most of their games on weekends. I don’t know if that’s been to accommodate UH, or if that’s just the norm. If that’s how it would be going forward, then it would lessen the impact somewhat, but the inclusion of retail properties on the site would have the opposite effect. Again, until someone does a study and produces a report, we’re all just guessing. I do remain convinced that none of this can happen without some public money being spent to improve the infrastructure around Midway, and as I said before, it’s not at all clear to me that this site would require less public spending than the east downtown one. It’s just too early to say. More on this from the Examiner here, with video from KTRK.

UPDATE: Bellaire City Council Member Corbett Parker has more.