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Houston Dynamo's 'troubling situation'
by Paul Kennedy, April 17th, 2008 7AM



To say the least, the first three weeks of the 2008 MLS season have not gone as the two-time defending champion Houston Dynamo would have liked.

It was dumped from the Concacaf Champions Cup by Costa Rica's Saprissa. It's winless in its first three games of the 2008 MLS season and must play its next three games without starting center back Eddie Robinson (click here for article on his suspension).

On top of that was Wednesday's release of an April 4 letter from MLS Commissioner Don Garber to the Dynamo owners regarding the "troubling situation" regarding their inability to conclude a soccer stadium deal with the City of Houston.

The letter from Garber to co-owners Philip Anschutz, Gabriel Brener and boxer Oscar De La Hoya emphasizes the irony of MLS's only relocation in league history. And the MLS commissioner said the league and the Dynamo's owners must consider their options for ensuring the team "has a path to economic success" -- options that would include yet another relocation.

While Anschutz's AEG moved the MLS team from San Jose to Houston in part because of problems as a tenant at a college facility, San Jose State's Spartan Stadium, the Houston team remains, according to Garber, "a secondary tenant in a college football facility" -- in this case, the University of Houston's Robertson Stadium.

Since then, MLS has returned to San Jose, where its new ownership is making significant progress on its own agreement with the local municipality on a deal for the construction of a soccer-specific stadium -- more progress than the group that left San Jose is making in the market it moved to.

To be fair, a Houston stadium deal is in the works -- a six-block track of land just east of downtown has been set aside by the City of Houston.

What remains to be done is for the Dynamo's owners and the City of Houston to reach an agreement on the public/private financing of the project. The economics are no different than have been at issue in other MLS cities, nor are the politics. No stadium deal has reached its conclusion without big-time posturing between the MLS ownership group and the city that are supposed to be working together.

Garber's letter wasn't well received in Houston.

The headline in the Houston Chronicle article on Garber's letter was "MLS threat a slap to Dynamo fans," while Houston Mayor Bill White said in response to the letter, "I've gotten a little bit of a reputation, probably deserved, that I don't respond well to threats. I smiled."

An April 1 deadline on an agreement between the Dynamo and the City of Houston for the new stadium came and went -- which promoted Garber's letter of April 4.

In the meantime, the Chronicle reported that Dynamo officials said the estimated cost of building the 20,000 plus-seat stadium had increased from $80 to $90 million to $105 million.


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