Sunday, January 13, 2008

Dynamo Park, first pictures, thoughts and problems

This is going to be a semi-regular feature on this blog, taking pics of the proposed site of Dynamo's new playpen in the shadow of downtown Houston. I start off with a map of the site, with marking that will be explained further down in this post. In the pictures, I was standing on the corner of Dowling and Capitol streets looking to the west. There are five pictures spanning the site from south to north. In the distance, you can see both the back of the George R. Brown Convention Center and the retractable roof of Minute Maid Park.

As was widely reported last week in several sites all over the print and Internet (See the Chronicle's story here, Bernardo Fallas' somewhat whiney column on the delays with the stadium here and blog posts on the same here, and finally the Houston Business Journal's take on the new developments here.) the city of Houston has started the process of acquiring two sites, a downtown one for Dynamo Park (maybe that will be our next poll, naming ideas) in the shadow of the Astros' Minute Maid Park and the Rockets' Toyota Center and another just south of Loop 610 and east of Texas-288 (10-15 minutes away tops) for an 18-field youth and amateur complex that will also house the team's training facilities and offices.

Needless to say this is fantastic news, tempered of course by the fact that no deal has yet been finalized. Fallas points out, quite correctly, that the main reason for the complication and all of the delays is that Dynamo owner AEG (through Dynamo Prez. Oliver Luck) is trying to work the stadium deal at the same time that it is trying to sell the team, apparently to fighter Oscar De La Hoya's Golden Boy Productions. This should come as no surprise to anyone, and Fallas' column taking AEG to task for making this take longer by trying to do both at once is both naive and somewhat counterproductive. (Of course, I know Fallas is a member of the media and being productive on this score is definitely NOT his responsibility. Still.)

This was the deal when Dynamo came here two years ago. Everyone knew it then and everyone knows it now. It is right and proper for AEG to attempt to do both of these at once. This is 100 percent the way to go for four reasons:

(A) Anschutz Entertainment Group is not a local, Houston business. It is a long-established fact in pro sports leagues that local ownership of some sort leads to the greatest level of long-term stability (meaning, they don't move, my old Houston Oilers the exception to this rule of course). And while De La Hoya is not a Houston resident, he does have long term connections to the Houston boxing scene, particularly with trainer Willie Savannah and his group. He would not be a local owner, but his local connections, though not ideal, are stronger than AEG's.;

(B) As long as MLS has multiple ownership the league can not truly develop into a self-supporting ongoing cooperative (which sounds much nicer than "cartel," which is what all other US pro sports league truly are, now aren't they?). As a Dynamo and MLS fan, I want AEG to own only one team, and since they're an LA outfit, the Gals are a much, much more logical fit.;

(C) If Dynamo were not working on a stadium deal now, regardless of the ownership situation, they should be sued for malfeasance. The situation with UH does not work out well for the team -- no games on school nights, no control, sharing of concession and ticket revenues, UH being an OK but not great partner, American football lines and hash marks. The fact that AEG is also trying to sell the team at the same time should have no bearing on this.; and

(D) With De La Hoya apparently in advanced talks to purchase Dynamo, simple fairness dictates that Golden Boy deserves a seat at that table. No matter what frustrations Fallas expresses in his column, if that means that a two-way deal becomes a three-way conversation, then that's what it means. This may make the situation more complicated, but it in no way makes it undoable.

But as it turns out there are some other complications that have not garnered all of the attention maybe it should. Christof Spieler on his Intermodality blog had an interesting post the other day about the fact that the land the city is trying to acquire is right smack dab in the middle of three proposed Metro light rail lines. Read his very interesting post on the topic here, which I found on my former college friend Charles Kuffner's excellent Off the Kuff blog.

The map of the site I have included above came from Spieler's blog and clearly shows the problem. This is definitely something the city and Metro will have to work out, as Metro has worked long and hard on these light rail plans and they are not going to take it lightly that the city suddenly wants them to do something different. Fireworks is my prediction, at the very least. Though, in the typical Houston way, I also expect these to all take place behind closed doors in a soundproof room, and the only thing the public will see is a bunch of smiling suits walking out talking about how they were all on the same page all along, now weren't they?

But in the meantime, the dream does indeed seem that much closer to reality. When I went out with my two boys this afternoon to shoot the site, both of them had on their Dynamo kits. I shot pictures of them standing there with the empty field in the background and told the older one that we will remember this spot so that, hopefully, one day soon we will come back and I will shoot the exact same picture, only with Dynamo Park looming in the background.

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