December 17, 2005
The soccer stadium shuffle

The Houston To-Be-Determineds of MLS have a new, temporary home for next season.

[Franchise owner] AEG also announced the team will play at the University of Houston's Robertson Stadium when the 2006 MLS season begins April 1.

UH athletic director Dave Maggard said a three-year deal will keep the team at Robertson until the end of the '08 season.

"I would guess that they would want to stay much longer (at Robertson) because they're going to save a lot of money," Maggard said.

But [AEG president and CEO Tim] Leiweke emphasized the franchise intends to use Robertson as a temporary home.

"Our goal long-term is to find a private-public partnership to build a soccer stadium complex in Houston," Leiweke said. "We have several options that are already on the table."

Leiweke did not elaborate on the options being discussed, but they are likely to include the city and a school district.

Tory and Fyre wonder why a new stadium is needed, while Rob opposes "issuing bonds to build the stadium and repaying those bonds with any kind of tax on the general public". Here's Tory:

I seem to remember somewhere in the hype around Reliant Stadium when it was built that it was designed to handle an MLS franchise too if the time came. Well, it's come. What's up? Is this just a matter of strong-arming McNair to give some concession and parking revenue rights to the MLS team? (or heck, just become the local owner they're looking for) Whatever it is, it's got to be cheaper than building a new stadium. (or, worst case, making a few modifications to the Astrodome)

I don't recall that particular piece of hype (perhaps it was about bringing World Cup matches here?), though I've no doubt Reliant could handle it. As some of Tory's commenters indicate, though, I'd bet it'd be too expensive to operate Reliant for events that draw in the 10,000-15,000 range. As for the Dome, it's been discussed before as a possibility, but in its current condition it would need some renovating. It might yet be worth considering that, but perhaps the school district tie-in makes more sense. We'll have to see what gets proposed.

As for Fyre's suggestion about Minute Maid or the Toyota Center, the former is impractical because MLB and MLS play more or less concurrently, and I'd be willing to bet that the latter is too small to fit a regulation-size soccer field in it, at least without removing any seats. The Dome is a better prosect than either of them.

UPDATE: Pete jumps on my call for team name suggestions.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on December 17, 2005 to Other sports | TrackBack

Charles, I was talking to a fellow last week who works with Dome-related projects. He mentioned to me that the County will no longer place the Dome field on the floor of the Dome for high school football games because it is uneconomic and the field itself is in such rotten shape. Inasmuch as MLS games would have comparable attendance to high school playoff football games, there would need to be a subsidy from some source to prompt the County to incur the expense of buying a new field and of taking on the expense of hosting the MLS season.

Posted by: Tom Kirkendall on December 18, 2005 7:33 AM

MLS is looking for teams to build soccer-only stadiums in the 20,000-25,000 capacity range. This has proven to work in Columbus, L.A. and Dallas, and is being done in Chicago and New York. Playing in a 75,000 seat stadium that is scaled down really doesn't work, as is the case in New York (the Meadowlands, which did have 78,000+ during the 1970's and the 1994 World Cup), D.C. (RFK Stadium), Colorado (Mile High Stadium, which gets crowds of about 6,500 during the first part of each MLS season), and Kansas City (which never seems to have a high attendance, but the Hunt family is based there, so they aren't moving.)

Ideally, the Houston team will be able to get a stadium there without much of a hassle.

Posted by: William Hughes on December 18, 2005 2:42 PM

Unless they're planning to grow grass inside, or they come up with an artificial turf that will satisfy FIFA's tough standards for sanctioning a national first-division league, I doubt the relocated 'Quakes are going to the Astrodome.

Posted by: Colorado Luis on December 20, 2005 11:27 AM

In fact, the MLS has recently struck a deal with Rowan University in New Jersey. The University is developing a major expansion to their campus and, also, including a 20,000 capacity exclusively-soccer stadium to be leased to the MLS. An (expansion?) team is expected to begin residence by 2009.

Posted by: ian on March 29, 2006 5:35 PM