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March 01, 2010

Houston sports authority to build Dynamo stadium, unless it doesn't

Newspapers have long derided their sports sections as the "toy department" — more about cheering than actual journalism — but Houston Chronicle sportswriter Jose De Jesus Ortiz's article on Friday about progress towards a new Dynamo soccer stadium takes rooting in the press box to an extreme. De Jesus Ortiz begins by declaring that Dynamo fans should be "doing cartwheels" over the fact that, notwithstanding that still no one has quite figured out how to pay for it, city and county commissioners have asked the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority to be the builders and owners of the proposed 21,000-seat stadium.

Why is this good news? Because, according to De Jesus Ortiz, the authority already built for Houston "among the best stadiums in the United States for baseball, football and basketball." And then he goes further:

Contrary to what some would have you believe, taxpayer dollars weren't used to build Minute Maid Park, Reliant Stadium or Toyota Center.
"It was very carefully drawn to tax hotel, auto and seat licenses," [state Sen. John] Whitmire said. "So they've been great cost-effective venues to benefit not only Harris County but East Texas and Texas in general. We've received a Super Bowl, a baseball All-Star Game, a World Series and other major sporting events because of these stadiums.
"It cost no property taxes. It generates an increase in property taxes, which then you use for general services. It's a win-win. The venues are built with bonds and you pledge user fees, parking, hotel, rental cars, seat licenses. Then the stadiums increase the value of the surrounding area, which creates taxes."

That's a large mouthful of justification, but none of it comes down to "no taxpayer dollars" — at best, if you believe the argument that the stadiums raised property values (without merely redirecting property increases that would have taken place somewhere in Houston anyway), it's that "the stadiums were built with taxpayer dollars, but they ended up being a good investment in the end." It's a claim that's hard to evaluate, though, since De Jesus Ortiz didn't interview any economists or urban planners for his story — his only source, in fact, is Whitmire, who is the guy who came up with the idea of the sports authority in the first place, and so might not be the most objective observer.

Meanwhile, the more reality-based media — and yes, that'll probably be the only time I use that term to refer to a Fox TV news outlet — reports that there's a potentially large hurdle to the sports authority taking over the Dynamo stadium project, which is that the authority has a no-compete clause with the Rockets' Toyota Center that prohibits it from even discussing building a new stadium or arena within ten miles of that arena until 2013. Authority board chair Kenny Friedman says that he hopes the non-complete clause won't apply since the soccer stadium isn't planned for holding concerts; the board is expected to discuss this issue at a meeting today.


GREAT GATSBY! Where do these guys get their nerve?

Call it what they will, just ask the people who get driven out of their homes or small businesses if "increment funds" and other slick word-tricks aren't new taxes.

Hey, for those of you who enjoy reading this stuff for laughs, check out the Sacramento arena swindles - It's just about the screwiest deal on the block, and it's just getting started. Our own SacBee toyshop (the whole newspaper, not just the sports section) makes foxed-news look like a swiss watchmaker. catch it at and - I guarantee you'll leave laughing, or your taxes (oops) i mean bandwidth back. - best to all, red.

Posted by redslider on March 1, 2010 07:35 PM

Couldn't the issue with the sports authority just be sidestepped by the fact the stadium likely wouldn't be ready until 2013 anyway. Just hand it off when it's complete.

Posted by Dan on March 1, 2010 08:29 PM

"notwithstanding that still no one has quite figured out how to pay for it"


These are the facts of the Dynamo Stadium proposal.

1. The City of Houston has purchase the land.
2. The City of Houston will dedicate $10 million in TIRZ funding to pay for infrastucture (sewers roads etc)
3. Harris County will join the TIRZ and provide an additional $10 million in TIRZ funds for infrastructure.
4. Harris County will reimburse the City of Houston for 50% of the land.
5. AEG (The Dynamo) will design, and construct the stadium dedicating $60 million of their own money.
6. AEG (the Dynamo will be responsible for all maintenance and improvements at the stadium.
7. TSU will be allowed to use the stadium for all of their home games.
8. When completed, the stadium will become the property of Harris County and the City of Houston who will lease it back to the Dynamo for a specified period of time.
9. At the end of the lease - the City and County will gain full title to the stadium.

The stadium is not being built with taxpayer dollars - it is being built solely by the Dynamo. All the City and County are being asked to do is to pay for the infrastructure (fix the roads, sewers and other things that local government normally does.)

Posted by Nigel Brooks on March 1, 2010 09:14 PM

Right, that's the proposal. I guess it's been "figured out" in the same way that Congress has figured out health reform and Obama has figured out withdrawal from Afghanistan, but that's not usually what people mean by that term.

Posted by Neil on March 1, 2010 11:47 PM

Nigel Brooks: And how much will that cost Houston taxpayers? (From hcnonline,"Houston and Harris County would have to sign off on creating a special taxing district that would help provide the $20 million of infrastructure needed to complete a stadium.")

Posted by Juan Pardell on March 2, 2010 02:24 AM

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