New steps taken towards Dynamo stadium

HOUSTON The latest step towards a new stadium was taken Tuesday afternoon when a special task force of the Sports Authority voted to recommend that the Sports Authority agree to manage the stadium once it's completed.

With a unanimous vote, a special task force of the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority voted the Dynamo soccer stadium one step closer to becoming a reality. It was the latest move in a day full of developments towards turning a six block area east of downtown into a home stadium to the Dynamo, and Texas Southern University's football team, among others.

"I think it is an exceptional project. I think the Dynamo have done a lot for the community. I hope the new venue will add to their success," said Larry Catuzzi of the Sports Authority.

The stadium project has picked up speed in recent weeks and the president and general manager of the Dynamo credits a new mayor.

"She's made this an issue that matters to her and sat down with the county and reached an agreement, at least in principal, so that certainly was a positive impetus for us," said Oliver Luck.

On Tuesday morning though, the city and county were talking timeline and making the stadium home to more than just the Dynamo's home field.

A six-block piece of city property east of downtown, now home to trash and weeds, could be full of cheering Houston Dynamo fans and a brand new stadium in two years. That's if the City of Houston, Harris County, the Sports Authority and the Dynamo finalize a timeline made public earlier Tuesday.

"The City of Houston and the commissioner's court of Harris County will deal with this issue legislatively in the next couple weeks and that's key issue to put the financing plan together," said Luck.

Operations would be overseen by the Houston Sports Authority, but as expected, the Dynamo would pay the lion's share of the construction cost with private funds. The Dynamo would put up $60 million of the $80 million price tag to build it, with the city and county putting up the remaining $20 million - each giving $10 million.

Ground could be broken on the new municipal stadium this coming October 1. It would be scheduled for completion in April 2012, which is when the Sports Authority would theoretically begin leasing it.

County and city leaders say the proposed deal will not increase public debt.

"We just think times are tough and taking on more public debt is not a good idea right now," said Andy Icken with the City of Houston.

They stadium would be a municipal stadium, with shared use by the city and county, which would also split the cost of the land. The city has already purchased it for $15 million, so the county would pay $7.5 million.

Once the stadium is built, it would then be turned over to the Sport Authority to manage, according to the plan.

A Sports Authority special task force voted to recommend to the full body this Thursday that the Sports Authority go ahead and manage the stadium property, at no cost to the Sports Authority, making it the final piece of the puzzle to fall into place.

"We're hopeful that they all happen, but it's going to take a lot of attention from the city, the county and the Sports Authority to make it happen," said Icken. "This is $60 million of private investment in the city of Houston and will create jobs and other associated benefits."

The stadium would sit on Councilmember James Rodriguez's district and he says he's thrilled with the plan.

"We need to start talking publicly about the plans to start informing our stake holders and people in the community," he said. "This deal has been at a standstill for a long time, so people are concerned about its viability. We're excited to actually have a committee hearing on it to provide this road map and to be able to have a plan to move forward."

Another requirement of this plan is that there is enough affordable tickets so families can attend.

Texas Southern University's football team, which currently doesn't have a home stadium, would also play at the stadium. So TSU would become one of the many teams benefiting from getting a new home field.

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