Bellaire mayor fights Dynamo stadium proposal

January 29, 2010 3:58:34 PM PST
The mayor of Bellaire says she plans to fight a possible move to put a new soccer stadium just north of Bellaire. As Eyewitness News first reported Tuesday, there's new talk about possibly building a stadium in the Galleria area near the Southwest Freeway and the West Loop. The developers of an area of land near the I-610/Highway 59 interchange are trying to entice the Houston Dynamo to build a new stadium there. Since our story aired, the neighboring city of Bellaire is weighing in on what the Dynamo stadium would mean for its community.

The mayor of Bellaire said she's simply representing the people who live nearby. And in her opinion, the Dynamo stadium plan should go no further than just a plan.

Seth Yalenezlan has lived in his Bellaire neighborhood for 25 years. The last thing he wants is for a Dynamo stadium to be built on a nearby multi-acre lot.

"I really don't think it's a good area for it," he said. "We're conveniently located, but this is a residential neighborhood."

Bellaire Mayor Cindy Siegel agrees. She says even though the proposed stadium site sits within the city limits of Houston, it's her residents who will feel the biggest impact.

"I live in a single family home, I like to enjoy my backyard, and I like to enjoy my pool in the evening," Mayor Siegel said. "Would I want to be listening to a soccer game or a concert going on?"

But not everyone agrees with the mayor. Some are pointing out that anything would be an improvement over the empty, overgrown lots that are there now.

"As long as they develop that area, because right now we have nothing there. A couple of years back we had problems with crime and vandalism in that area," said Bellaire resident Frank Bello.

And the city council member who represents the proposed site in Houston also likes the idea.

"As an original season ticket holder and a Dynamo fan, I'd love to have it in district C," said Houston City Council member Anne Clutterbuck.

But Mayor Siegel says the stadium is better suited in its original location, in downtown Houston.

"I think that there is a great place for the stadium, but I personally don't believe that that's the right place," she said.

The plan is just in the beginning stages. Dynamo officials say they're going forward with the plans for the downtown location unless they're handed a better package. The City of Bellaire is set to discuss the issue Monday at a council meeting.

You can read more on the story in the Bellaire Examiner, one of our Houston Community Newspaper partners.
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LETTER FROM BELLAIRE MAYOR CINDY SIEGEL TO BRAD FREELS, CHAIRMAN AND CEO OF MIDWAY COMPANIES:

January 26, 2010

Re: Proposed Dynamo Stadium

Dear Brad:

I want to reiterate my serious concerns and what I believe will be the concerns of Bellaire and Houston citizens about the proposed site for a new Dynamo stadium that you discussed with me last Friday, January 22, 2010.

Quite frankly, Brad, I have to tell you that I was blindsided by your company's proposal to use your land at S. Rice and Westpark for a Dynamo stadium. This proposal is completely contrary to what was envisioned for the transit oriented development that included your property and the Bellaire Research and Development District (RDD) when Bellaire, Metro, Thompson and Hanson, and Midway shared the cost of an architect to develop a conceptual plan for a transit oriented development at this location. As I have stated at every joint meeting that your company has attended with Metro and City of Bellaire officials ? our primary concern has always been to protect the integrity of the Bellaire residential neighborhood directly south of this site, in addition to protecting the interests of the Bellaire property owners in the RDD.

In reviewing your plans further over the weekend and driving by the site Monday during the day and rush hour traffic in the evening. I cannot see any benefit to locating a soccer stadium (that would also be used as an outdoor entertainment facility) at your site. I believe strongly that the proposed stadium site on your property has serious limitations and will have an extremely negative impact to the residential Bellaire and Houston neighborhoods that adjoin your property and the RDD. As we discussed, the S. Rice and Westpark intersection already experiences significant delays due to traffic backups. (This traffic problem has been discussed several times in prior meetings regarding the placement of a Metro Rail transit station here.) Additionally, traffic backs from Fournace on the 610 Feeder road up to Westpark daily during evening rush hour. A stadium at this site would just increase exponentially what is already a significant traffic problem!

Additionally, there is an existing traffic problem at the 610 and 59 interchange that has been a tremendous drain on emergency personnel responding to accidents that would be compounded further if the stadium was built on your site. Bellaire and Houston emergency personnel (but primarily Bellaire) already respond s several times a day to accidents at this location. To add stadium traffic to what is already a horrible problem would be a financial and manpower resource burden that Bellaire cannot accommodate.

I understand that you think that connecting this stadium to the proposed Metro transit station will suffice in addressing traffic in this area. However, I disagree with you because first, it will be many years before there is a fully operational rail system in the Houston area. Secondly, given projected population growth ? highway usage will only increase, not decrease - further compounding what is already an unbearable problem on 59 and 610 Loop at this interchange.

Other points that we discussed and I believe will be of great concern to the Bellaire and Houston residents that live close to the proposed site is the noise and other pollution that will negatively impact their quality of life. Additionally, not only is there the potential for cut-through traffic, but I can envision overflow parking on residential neighborhood streets when fans can not get into the stadium parking lot quickly. Brad, the residential neighborhood directly south of your property and the RDD was damaged when 610 Loop cut their neighborhood in half over 40 years ago. A stadium would be the final blow to what has been a neighborhood trying to reclaim its quality of life for decades.

Lastly, after reviewing your plans for a couple of days, I personally do not see how a stadium at this location best serves the greater Houston area and fans. Fans on the north and east side of Houston will have difficulty in getting to this site. Additionally, this site does not have the infrastructure in place to serve it that already exists at other athletic facilities downtown or at Reliant Park . Also, given the growth of soccer in the United States, I have a hard time believing that the Dynamo will not outgrow a 20,000 seat stadium fairly quickly.

In conclusion, although I am only one vote on Bellaire City Council, I believe that my fellow Council members and the residents of Bellaire and Houston will agree with me, when I state that this is not a good site for a soccer stadium, nor does it provide easy access for the benefit of all soccer fans in the greater Houston area. I ask that you reconsider your proposal and respond to me quickly, as I have scheduled an executive session to discuss this matter with the Bellaire City Council.

Sincerely,

Cindy Siegel

Mayor of the City of Bellaire


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