April 17, 2008
More on the MLS-Mayor kerfuffle

Thanks to today's Chron story on the little spat between MLS and Mayor White, we now know where that higher-than-previously-cited price tag of $105 million for Dynamo Stadium came from:

During a subsequent news conference to publicly assuage the mayor's concerns, team officials said the price tag on a new stadium had climbed to $105 million, up from the $80 million to $90 million previously estimated.

Boy, things are tough all over, aren't they? Guess we better get used to this sort of thing happening. So how much does this affect the negotiations?

Team officials later held a news conference to explain that they never intended to pressure the mayor.

But Oliver Luck, president and general manager, also reiterated the team's contention that a significant city investment in the new stadium is necessary to make the franchise successful.

"We have made our position very clear to the mayor that we are looking for some public support for that building, and we will do the right thing, which is to continue to negotiate with the city to try to identify any potential revenue streams that may eventually bridge the gap we're now facing," Luck said.


[MLS Commissioner Don] Garber's April 4 letter was addressed to the team's chief investors: Anschutz Entertainment Group owner Philip Anschutz, Brener International Group head Gabriel Brener and Golden Boy Promotions president Oscar De La Hoya. It was handed to White by Brener during an April 7 meeting.

Dynamo officials said they were only trying to illustrate the pressure they felt from the league.

"The point was not to put any pressure on the mayor or threaten the mayor by any means," Luck said, "but to really show the mayor the ownership of the league is very concerned about the progress or lack there of that we're making here in Houston in terms of a long-term home."

Garber cited the "lack of progress" in his letter:

"Even in the fourth-largest market in the country with a young and dynamic demographic that embraces soccer, the Houston team will continue to lose money without a public-private partnership on a new soccer stadium -- a fact that presents significant issues for the league."


White said he thought the letter was part of the team's negotiations, and should not be viewed as a signal that talks were breaking down.

He also said that the city's offer has been "reasonable," but, apparently, not rich enough.

"I want them to stay. I think they'll make money if they stay," White said.

"But we're not going to take money out of the police budget or the fire budget or have some big new tax that is going to be imposed on everybody in the community, in order to build a stadium."

I suppose this letter didn't change things, and it didn't necessarily indicate that negotiations are at a standstill, but I don't think it helped. Not that they have meant anything so far in this process, but I wonder if there is some kind of deadline for these talks, after which the Dynamo really will seek other options, including perhaps another look at places like Sugar Land. Given that construction is more expensive now, and that the economy overall isn't doing so well, I don't know that they have the leverage to make that kind of contingency all that viable. If so, then maybe we finally will see a resolution soon.

UPDATE: Bernardo Fallas chastises Commissioner Garber for writing the letter, then makes a curious statement:

Because as much as the letter calls on AEG and Co. to strike a deal or else, it also serves to pressure White, which in turn serves AEG and Co. Which is exactly why White ended up with a copy and why he made it public, a weird move considering he has been stealthy about negotiations.

It's not a weird move at all. Mayor White recognized the purpose of the letter, which was to put pressure on the city to make a deal with the Dynamo, and he knew that releasing it would cause a backlash that would put pressure on the Dynamo to back off. Which it has done. Pretty simple, really.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 17, 2008 to Other sports
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