April 16, 2008
MLS versus the Mayor

Are you wondering what the status is of the Dynamo Stadium deal, which at last report saw City Council approving the land purchase in early March? Apparently, so is MLS, and they're getting a mite antsy about it.

On Friday, the Dynamo handed the mayor a letter, from the commissioner of Major League Soccer.

"I am concerned about the lack of progress in your discussions with the City of Houston," writes MLS commissioner Donald Garber.

He said he'd consider moving the Dynamo out of Houston unless the city agreed to help pay for a new stadium. Otherwise, "the Houston team will continue to lose money."

The mayor didn't take to the letter.

"I don't respond well to threats, it was, I don't know," said White.

The mayor thinks the letter is a bluff.

"I think we've made an offer that's a reasonable offer that they can make money," he said.

The letter is here (PDF). Much as I like the idea of a downtown Dynamo Stadium, I see no reason to give in here. I think the city has been perfectly reasonable and accommodating, and they have no need to fear being extorted over the level of funding they're willing to commit to. If after all this the Dynamo want to walk, I say have a nice trip.

In a hastily called press conference Wednesday afternoon, Dynamo president Oliver Luck said despite the tone of the letter, the team has not set any deadline for a deal to be struck. But, he said private financing of the stadium would not be the goal.

"It's extraordinarily difficult to commit to that kind of private funds to that kind of stadium without any economic help from a city," Luck said.

Luck estimated a new stadium would cost about $105 million. He said in many cases MLS teams have partnered with cities in a 90/10 split on financing, with the municipality picking up 90-percent of the funding.

The Dynamo are not looking for that sort of split in Houston, but Luck said the city would have to put up some sort of money to make a new stadium a reality. He stressed though, no deadline has been set and the team has not been talking with any other cities about a possible move.

I've not seen any discussion of what ratio the franchise would pay for a stadium versus the city. I have seen $70 to 80 million suggested as a price; perhaps that reflects the Dynamo's share of that $105 million cost, perhaps it's a reflection of the rising costs of construction, or perhaps it was just a poor guess. In any event, this is clearly the sticking point, so it's just a matter of who blinks first. Miya has more at KTRK.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 16, 2008 to Other sports

I love the Dynamo, but that would be four major facilities in just under 15 years and we are still paying for the renovations to the Astrodome Bud Adams got before he left for Tennessee.

I'm all for getting them a new facility, but MLS sending threatening letters is just dumb. In the pantheon of professional sports, they are probably 6th or 7th behind NFL, MLB, NBA, NASCAR, NHL and the PGA Tour. If you include college sports, they are probably 9.

Anyone think they'd be doing this or even discussing it had they not just won 2 titles? The Toyota Center was the most difficult facility to get built (2 referendums) and it is the most usable and, arguably, the best financial investment for the city.

Sorry if I don't have much sympahhy for the Dynamo.

Posted by: Jeff on April 16, 2008 10:33 PM
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