Thursday, April 17, 2008

Dynamo Park not in danger just yet

That empty field right there, the proposed site of Dynamo Park in the shadow if downtown, is still on the table, regardless of what you may have read this week about letters and meetings, intimidating and otherwise. (No need to have me run down all the events of yesterday. Read about them here, here and here.)

However, it won't be for much longer if Don Garber (His letter to AEG, Oscar De La Hoya and Gabriel Brener is here.) doesn't keep his freakin' mouth shut and his pen capped. (Read Fallas' commentary on this here.) Nothing will turn the indifferent in this town into Dynamo-haters faster than perceived threats. As much as Dynamo's wins have captivated Houston and as much of a soccer hotbed that exists here, we all know the situation is still somewhat tenuous at best. Public opinion can turn fast, and if you try to intimidate here, you find out what a slight hand you're really playing with, trophies or no.

Oliver Luck, of all people, knows this, which is why he met with Mayor Bill White and called a press conference yesterday to keep things from turning into a full boil.

So let's stick with the simple truths of the matter:

Good news:

1. All sides are still at the table and are meeting. Going back to when the Allen Brothers first did the backroom deal that founded this place, quiet "you rub my shoulders and I'll rub yours" meetings are how bidness gets done in Houston. The fact that the sides are talking to each other and NOT the media means that, for now, no Bud Adams-type explosion is going on. Quiet = Good

2. It's early in the season and Dynamo face the Galaxy Saturday. Putting the focus back on the field, especially if the Orange can secure a win against such a visible and highly-beatable opponent, can only help. Everyone's on the same side when it comes to winning.

3. The city is still buying the land and there's really no other purpose for it than the building of Paradise South. The wheels that were turning before the Don's bone-headed letter are still turning.

4. Both sides were conciliatory in tone yesterday, with White saying, basically, there will be no pressuring, and the Dynamo saying, basically, the same thing.


1. The price tag went up from $80-90 million to $105 million. It's still a bargain, but two digits looks better than three in front of the "m" word when trying to sell the thing to the public.

2. Dynamo mentioned yesterday that the city needs to put in more money and nowhere was there reference to the former meme about the team footing most of the bill. This leaves people thinking that the team is asking the city to foot most or all of the bill. If this is true, this news turns from bad to really bad.

3. The time spent on this could have spent on something productive, but instead it turned into an airing of frustrations. Maybe this is good news emotionally for everyone in the room, but in the sheer lack of moving the ball forward I'm putting it in this column.

4. Bernardo Fallas says that UH is rumored to be wanting to raise Dynamo's rent by 50% next year. Luck says that's unnacceptable. There is no silver lining to this one

So back to Garber's letter, which was written April 4. Why was it released now? Absent hard facts, it's conspiracy-theory time. Here's a great post from El Naranja over at Bernardo Fallas' Soccer y FĂștbol blog, in which he quotes a friend, who echoes my thinking as well:

Let's see. The Commissioner writes a letter to the Dynamo ownership group outlining the case for a stadium in Houston and listing other markets that have participated in public-private partnerships with MLS. The Dynamo ownership group gives the Mayor a copy. The Mayor releases the letter and says that he won't take money out of police and fire budgets to pay for a stadium (which no one believes would ever happen, isn't how the City finances things like what the stadium project would need, and is something that the Mayor has previously said numerous times) - all while reinforcing his image as a tough business person who won't be pushed around in a deal (which is a great image to have when you run statewide). Then the Dynamo throws together a press conference to say that they're committed to Downtown and aren't interested in moving.

I don't think there's any way that the Commissioner sends a letter to the Dynamo ownership group unless AEG wants that letter. But even if you believe that's not the case, there's no way that the Dynamo owners give White a copy thinking that he won't release it and publicly affirm his opposition to using money that could be used for things like fire and police to finance the stadium.

So have we got a deal or not? No. But will we? Well, I have seen so many stadium and other deals in this city, and usually when you've got everyone wanting the same thing and a lack of posturing, a deal gets done. If the cooler heads that were evident at the end of the day yesterday are any indication, it'll happen, but when is anybody's guess.


The Manly Ferry said...

Oh, Lord, do you have my sympathy on this one. Leverage is a fine thing, except when it doesn't exist. You have to wonder what Garber, who generally seems a sharp tack, was thinking.

In case you haven't seen it, I like this guy's take on the situation and commend it to your attention.

Martek said...

I indeed saw Daryl's take and link to it above. Daryl is a genius. Right now my actions on the stadium issue are:

1. Rubbing my lucky rabbit's foot
2. Trying not to think about it
3. Repeating 1 and 2

Oh, and..

4. Trying not to listen to the people in the Bay Area snickering about the whole situation. (Though I have to admit, if I were in their position.....)