The Houston city council unanimously approved spending $17.5 million on land and infrastructure for a new Dynamo soccer stadium yesterday. The vote leaves the seemingly endless Dynamo stadium campaign just a vote by the county commission (which would chip in a similar amount) away from approval, which could come as early as Tuesday.
If all goes according to plan, the Dynamo will break ground on a $60 million (not counting land and infrastructure) stadium this fall, with it set to open in 2011 — which sounds crazy ambitious, but then, soccer stadiums aren’t nearly as complex to build as, say, baseball stadiums. Though this won’t be soccer-only, interestingly: The Texas Southern University football team will also play there.
As for whether this is a good deal for Houston, that’s harder to say at this point. The Houston Chronicle cited Mayor Annise Parker as arguing that “the stadium is a better deal than Minute Maid Park, the Toyota Center and Reliant Stadium because neither the city nor the county will have to pay for the stadium itself” — which is true, but that’s not the same as arguing that it’s a good deal. Then, too, there’s the question of whether the Dynamo will pay rent or share any stadium revenues with their public landlord, or whether the whole public ownership of the stadium thing is just a way of getting out of paying property taxes.
Probably the best way to sum this up is: MLS still isn’t popular enough to command the sort of leverage that other sports do, and their stadiums are cheaper to build, so at worst the public loss isn’t as bad as throwing it down a hole on baseball or football. Which is, I suppose, what the mayor was saying, just not in so many words.