DYNAMO STADIUM APPROVAL WILL DRAW A LINE AROUND THE ASTRODOME Included in that Dynamo Stadium deal Harris County commissioners are expected to approve today: A new TIRZ for the Astrodome. “Fixing the Astrodome is not the purpose of the district, but a surge of development in the area could make the Astrodome more attractive as an investment and destination, according to development officials.
There are no specific plans on what to do with redevelopment money in the Astrodome district or even an indication that any of it will be spent on the old stadium. County officials say it is not likely that redevelopment money would be used for Astrodome debt payments.
Astrodome expenses are covered by a combination of hotel and car rental taxes, parking fees and concessions.” [Houston Chronicle]
DYNAMO STADIUM APPROVALS: 2 DOWN, 1 TO GO Houston’s city council voted this morning to approve the construction of a new stadium on city-owned land in East Downtown for Houston Dynamo soccer and TSU football games. The Harris County-Houston Sports Authority approved its own role in the deal 2 weeks ago: “The next step in the process will be Tuesday at Harris County Commissioners Court when the deal has to be approved by the county.
An agreement between the city and the county would allow each governmental body to use $10 million in property tax money for infrastructure improvements around the stadium.
The city already has paid $15 million for the land just east of U.S. 59 downtown on a tract bordered by Texas, Walker, Dowling and Hutchins, and the county has agreed to reimburse half that amount. The deal calls for Dynamo owners to pay an estimated $60 million in stadium construction costs.” [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot]
Whatever obstacles were standing in the way of county commissioner El Franco Lee agreeing to Harris County participation in the East Downtown TIRZ — the last piece of the funding puzzle needed for the Houston Dynamo to get its new soccer stadium — appear to have fallen. A number of votes will need to take place before construction can start on the site bounded by Texas, Dowling, Hutchins, and Walker streets just east of Downtown. But media reports indicate the long-stalled project now has sufficient government support to move forward:
The city and county have asked the [Harris County-Houston Sports Authority] to take over lease negotiations with the Dynamo, oversee the construction project and act as property manager upon the stadium’s completion.
If the authority approves the request, City Council is expected to vote on the agreement March 31, followed by a Commissioner’s Court vote expected on April 13. If all is approved as planned, the two parties would turn the land over to the Dynamo for construction on Oct. 1, and the stadium is scheduled for completion April 1, 2012, just in time for the Dynamo season to begin.
Rendering of Dynamo Stadium: Populous
COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE SOCCER STADIUM AT FINGER FURNITURE “Am I crazy to ask the question why this site would not be an easier solution for the Dynamo’s stadium? It’s right on 45 South, has much better ingress/egress than the east end site, with dedicated exits going north and south, very close to downtown. . . . Looking closer, too, it makes for easy alternative use(s) for the stadium (which means TSU can have even more convenient use of the facilities with their campus not 2 miles away), near Hobby Airport for sports fan travelers/reporters/etc., and doesn’t take a ton of money to make the site possible since it already has a vast parking lot, utilities, (albeit obnoxious) pylon freeway sign. Knowing the Fingers family, they would take the call, and be happy to trade the site for another from the city for future development. Yahtzee!” [JG, commenting on A Whole New Ball Game: Fingers Back and Open for Business]
When last we looked in on the stalled Dynamo Stadium deal for East Downtown, Commissioner El Franco Lee was holding the ball. Today, the HBJ‘s Ford Gunter provides a few clues about the dealmaking behind the scenes:
Lee has steadfastly refused to comment on the issue, and did not respond to interview requests. Speaking in Lee’s place during several recent interviews, [Harris County Community Services Dept. Director David] Turkel has become more guarded, citing the delicate situation and his desire to avoid hampering a possible agreement. In a nutshell, though, Lee wants concessions from the city and the team that he has not yet received.
“Lee is not comfortable putting it on the agenda as is, because it will get voted down,” Turkel says.
For one, the county is looking at who will own the stadium after the lease runs out in about 30 years, and how that would affect a deal in which the city would buy out the county’s share. Precinct 2 Commissioner Sylvia Garcia wants Dynamo family ticket packs priced comparably to movie tickets, which has been more or less agreed upon.
What is Lee really after?
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HOW TO GET MORE HOUSTON NEIGHBORHOODS TO SUPPORT THE DOWNTOWN DYNAMO STADIUM DEAL It’s easy! Just start talking about an alternative plan for a stadium in some other area of the city. Neighborhood groups will be very supportive. Hey, it worked for Bellaire! “The [Bellaire City] Council voted 6-0 in favor of a resolution calling on the three parties to close a deal on a stadium just east of U.S. 59 near the East End. It also asked the dealmakers not to support a recently emerged proposal to build the stadium along Bellaire’s northern border.” [Houston Politics]
Will the Houston Dynamo get to build their stadium in East Downtown — or off Westpark, near the Galleria? So far, the odds are . . . neither. The final go-ahead for building a soccer stadium on the EaDo site will require county commissioners to formally join the new East Downtown TIRZ (boundaries shown outlined above). But they can’t vote on that proposal until commissioner El Franco Lee puts that decision on the agenda. So far he hasn’t done that — and he apparently won’t talk to the press or constituents about his intentions.
Meanwhile, over in Bellaire, city officials are rushing to put in some “stop-gap” zoning changes to the Research and Development District at the northern edge of the city. Most of the site of Midway Companies’ proposed Dynamo Stadium development there lies within Houston city limits, but a small portion on the east side is apparently in Bellaire’s RDD.
What sort of zoning changes are being discussed? Instant News Bellaire‘s Angela Grant explains:
The new Comprehensive Plan envisions the RDD as a mixed-used urban area that includes residential, retail and offices, along with METRO’s future light-rail station. But as the zoning codes are currently written, developers could construct car lots, warehouses or other things that conflict with the “urban village” idea. . . .
The main change would be that developers wishing to construct residential, commercial or mixed-use buildings would need to go before the city in a planned development process to have their ideas approved before moving forward. The city would get a chance to review the plans, consider whether they conformed with the Comprehensive Plan, and reject any developments that did not.
Map showing outline of TIRZ 15: Gensler (PDF)
DYNAMO STADIUM: WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES THE LOCATION MAKE? “Talk to Houston Dynamo CEO Oliver Luck, and you get a much different view of the depth of Bellaire-area stadium proposal by the Midway Companies that’s taken on a life of its own in the past week, largely due to the buzz phrase, ‘privately funded.’ ‘We have not been presented a plan by the Midway Companies,’ Luck said. ‘I can’t say whether there’s “no public money” involved. ‘We (the Dynamo) won’t talk to the city or county about this deal — we have pushed that responsibility to Midway. We know what our conditions are, and basically, it’s replicating the financial structure of the downtown deal. That’s sort of a threshhold question. If they can do that, we’ll go ahead. If they can’t, it won’t happen.’ Under the East Downtown (a district now known as EaDo) deal, the Dynamo would pay about $60 million with the city of Houston and Harris County each guaranteeing about $10 million through a special tax reinvestment district.” [West University Examiner; previously on Swamplot]
More details on that newly proposed alternate location for Dynamo Stadium that the soccer team is now apparently considering: It’s a 30-acre parcel at the southeast corner of Westpark and S. Rice Blvd., across from the Sam’s Club parking lot and Bubba’s Texas Burger Shack. That’s just southwest of the intersection of 59 and the 610 Loop, and right next to the planned location of the Uptown and University light-rail lines’ Bellaire Station — at Westpark and North 1st St.
Brad Feels, CEO of Midway Companies, tells the Chronicle‘s Chris Moran he’s envisioning a mixed-use development there somewhat like Dallas’s Mockingbird Station, which sits just across the Central Expressway from SMU’s Ford Stadium, and which features restaurants and retail, office buildings, apartments, and a movie theater complex. (Midway is the developer of CityCentre, now pretty much complete at the site of the former Town & Country Mall.) Feels first contacted the Dynamo’s Oliver Luck with information about the property in October or November of last year.
What’s happening with plans to build a Dynamo Stadium in East Downtown?
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Houston Dynamo fan and attorney Eric Nordstrom — who’s also a supporter of a new East Downtown stadium for the soccer team — writes in with a question:
I appeared at Commissioners’ Court this morning on behalf of the Dynamo Supporters’ Alliance to speak in support of county participation in TIRZ 15, which is the last hurdle to clear before the Houston Dynamo can begin construction of their stadium at the proposed downtown location. As you know, this deal has been held up for quite some time as it works its way through the political process. The Dynamo Supporters’ Alliance is dedicated to keeping this issue on the front-burner with our elected officials, especially now that the smoke has cleared from the municipal elections. It is important to us to get the message out about this project for it truly represents a remarkable commitment by the team to expend $60,000,000 of its own capital . . . Opponents often ask why, if the Dynamo want a stadium, don’t they pay for it themselves. The Supporters’ Alliance is dedicated to communicating the message that that is precisely what the Club is trying to do. If the City and County will fix the roads, we’ll build the house.
However, after my three minutes were up, Commissioner Radack asked if I was aware of a project currently under development by Midway Companies to construct a multi-use facility in Precinct 3 with 100% private financing, “a mile from the Galleria” near Westpark. To be honest, I was not aware of such a project, and though our first choice is the downtown location, I am intrigued by the location Commissioner Radack suggests. I’m wondering if any of your readers out there can fill in the gaps.
Rendering of proposed new Dynamo Stadium at Texas and Dowling, East Downtown: ICON Venue Group
Worried the Dynamo soccer stadium planned for the superblock between Texas, Dowling, Hutchins, and Walker is gonna block traffic between Downtown and the East End? Citizen rail designer Christof Spieler solves the tangle:
There are two parts to this idea. The first is to make Texas alongside the stadium a two-way street. Instead of two eastbound traffic lanes and two light rail tracks, Texas gets two eastbound traffic lanes, two westbound traffic lanes, and two light rail tracks. That all fits in the existing right of way. The second part is to use the “squiggle” in the light rail tracks for traffic lanes as well. This does two things: it gives the westbound traffic on Texas a way to go, and it cleans up those messy intersections.
So now, to get from the East End to Downtown, you simply follow Harrisburg, which flows right into Texas, and then you make a left turn onto Capitol. And you will not hit an awkward intersection or have to cross the rail line to do it.
Map: Christof Spieler
The giant inflatable-boat-like structure shown here afloat in an otherwise-empty East Downtown six-pack superblock is the latest rendition of . . . the new Houston Dynamo soccer stadium! The Houston Chronicle‘s Bernardo Fallas has details:
The Dynamo want to have the roughly $85 million, 22,000-seat stadium ready for opening day 2011. They envision an all-round two-level, all-seater venue with 34 suites, 86 concession point-of-sales, a 3,000 square-foot club level and a party deck on the southeast corner.
Loving that subtle “soccer fans on a life raft” imagery? It gets better: The open-air stadium’s playing surface will be a full story underground!
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11 News is showing some rough images of that new Dynamo soccer stadium planned for a site just east of Downtown, bordering Texas, Dowling, Hutchens, and Walker:
“We think it’s about an $80 to $85 million stadium. (It will have) 21,000 seats, but nothing fancy though. It’s very functional,” said Dynamo GM Oliver Luck. . . . “It’s gonna be much more fan friendly in terms of concessions and restrooms and some of those things that we just don’t really have over at Robertson Stadium. Most importantly, it’s going to be much easier to get to in terms of the parking and access. A rail line will literally run right next to the stadium,” said Luck.
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Chronicle reporters say they know where the new Dynamo Stadium is going . . . and it’s on land the city itself will buy:
Earlier this week, city officials signed letters of intent to buy parcels of land just east of U.S. 59 and the downtown business district . . . City officials declined to identify the location, but a person with knowledge of the situation confirmed reports that the parcels are in a six-block area between Texas and Walker avenues and Hutchins and Dowling streets, just southeast of Minute Maid Park near the northbound side of U.S. 59.
This all sounds vaguely familiar, doesn’t it? Within a few acres, there’ll be stadiums for three big-league sports teams, a convention center, a hotel, and a freeway overpass. Once the Dynamo stadium gets built, if this new growing complex really wants to be able to compete with Reliant Park, all they’ll have to do is wrap the whole neighborhood with a wide ribbon of surface parking lots!
Photo of Reliant Park parking lots: Flickr user scalpelorsword
A resident of the Stanford Lofts just east of Downtown writes in to make sure everyone knows, after all, that the building’s view of Minute Maid Park is not going to be obstructed by . . . a view of a new soccer stadium for the Houston Dynamo directly across the street.
No, no official deal’s been announced. But this tidbit from a Chronicle story has allowed condo owners to breathe a sigh of relief:
The Dynamo first set sights on land owned by the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority just east of Minute Maid Park and U.S. 59, but have since decided against the property, which the Astros lease for stadium parking.
“We know for a fact (the property) is no longer being considered,” said Sports Authority head Kenny Friedman, who added that the Sports Authority is not actively involved in the negotiations.
The team might be looking to purchase private land near the same general area as the county-owned property, although Luck declined to confirm or deny it, saying only that a downtown venue is still planned.
So where will the Dynamo stadium go? Keep reading below the fold:
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