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Wanted: Public partner

The Houston To-Be-Determineds of MLS are officially looking for that special someone to help them build their dream stadium.

The Anschutz Entertainment Group, owner of the team relocating from San Jose, Calif., would share a new stadium with Houston high school athletes under one deal being considered by school and soccer officials.

This deal calls for AEG, on its own or with financial assistance from the Houston Independent School District, to build a 20,000- to 25,000-seat venue on the site of the school district’s Delmar Stadium at U.S. 290 and Loop 610.

AEG also will explore whether a school district might become a partner in building a stadium surrounded by community soccer fields — a deal comparable to one reached in the Dallas suburb of Frisco, where pro team FC Dallas plays.

“In an ideal world, we would have somebody on the public side looking at the benefit that would accrue by having this stadium and these fields,” said Scott Elackmun, AEG’s chief operating officer. “We are not looking for someone who would pay 100 percent of construction.”

That’s good, because you’re not going to find anyone like that. Maybe that’s unfair, given how the voters gave a bunch of money to the other three major league sports teams to build shiny new stadia, but them’s the breaks. Times are different, money is tighter, and frankly fewer of those voters are likely to get fired up to vote for a soccer stadium, especially for a team that hasn’t set foot in town just yet.

Oliver Luck, outgoing president of the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority and the soccer team’s soon-to-be president, said he will be working hard the next several months on the logistics of playing in Houston.

Elackmun said he and Luck will begin work on a stadium deal early next year. AEG intends to take advantage of Luck’s knowledge in getting sports venues built in Houston and his connections throughout the area, Elackmun said.


A huge public contribution made Pizza Hut Park, which cost $80 million, in Frisco a reality. The city of Frisco, Frisco school district and Collin County put in $55 million, and the Hunt Sports Group, owners of the team, spent at least $25 million, said FC Dallas spokesman Justin Pearson.

Bridgeview, Ill., is building a $70 million stadium for the AEG-owned Chicago Fire.

The Hudson County Improvement Authority balked this year at contributing part of the $90 million needed to construct a stadium for the MetroStars in Harrison, N.J. But local and county authorities are still making a significant contribution, Elackmun said.

They are providing the land and paying for an environmental cleanup — a $25 million contribution — as well as a $40 million parking garage, which will be used by fans and commuters, Elackmun said.

Luck said the Harris County Sports Authority will not contribute anything toward a soccer stadium.

The authority relies on hotel and car rental taxes to pay off more than $1 billion in bonds taken out to pay for the baseball, football and basketball venues. As a result, Houston has the highest hotel tax in the nation, 17 percent. County Judge Robert Eckels said the sports authority could not raise hotel taxes to fund a soccer stadium.

AEG will continue to negotiate with HISD, explore whether there’s interest in a Frisco-like deal and discuss whether the University of Houston might be interested in sharing costs on a new stadium on its campus, Elackmun said. UH hopes to persuade AEG to stay at Robertson Field permanently, he said.

Tory still thinks that Reliant is the most logical solution, and that HISD and/or UH would have better things to spend their money on. I’m still agnostic on that, and will remain so until I see some particulars. I mean, if a school or school district were already in the planning stage for building a new athletic facility, it might make all kinds of sense for them to seek out a partnership with AEG. When I see a proposal in front of me, I’ll make up my mind.

On a side note, Rob thinks he has found what the new team will be named, contest or no contest. That’s an interesting, if somewhat obscure (at least to me) design. I’m still holding out hope for the Houston Floods, myself.

UPDATE: Houstonist is unimpressed with this rumored logo.

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  1. Sue says:

    Well, the good news for Houston is that the Earthquakes aren’t used to a lot of community support or to playing in quality stadia (that is the proper plural of stadium, right?). Any kind of support will be a bonus for them. A real stadium? That would be cause for celebration.

    (As a former season ticket holder for SJSU “football”, I’ve spent a lot of time at Spartan Stadium. Let’s just say there are better venues.)

  2. Tim says:

    There are a lot of parallels between Robertson Stadium and Spartan Stadium in San Jose, where the Quakes played. Both are about the same size, both are about the same age, and both are home to a local college football team.

    I don’t like corporate welfare in any case, but even if a weak case could be made for public money to build Reliant or Minute Maid, or the Toyota Center — given the drawing power of MLB, NFL and NBA…I don’t think any decent case for “return on investment” (which is usually overstated) on an MLS stadium can be made.

    One of the first things we noticed when we first got to Houston — a few days for a home-hunting expedition before my transfer here (from San Jose, interestingly enough given this subject) was that the rental car taxes were, bar none, the most ridiculously high we’d seen anywhere. For four days, the base rate was something like $175 and the total bill was close to $300. “Soaking outsiders” for local tax revenue only works as long as you don’t tax them so punitively that they stop coming.