SBD/May 14, 2012/Facilities

Inaugural MLS Game At BBVA Compass Stadium Draws Sellout Crowd, Dynamo Victory

Many feel BBVA Compass Stadium could be gold standard for future MLS venues
AEG and Dynamo execs Saturday were finally able to “admire the fruits of six years of negotiating and planning that produced the team's new $95 million home,” according to David Barron of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. The inaugural MLS game at BBVA Compass Stadium “was a sellout at 22,039 fans” as the Dynamo defeated DC United, 1-0. AEG President & CEO Tim Leiweke said, "It's beautiful, and I'm really proud of the fact we figured out a way to do it without the taxpayers having to write a check.” He added, "I thank everyone for being patient while we figured it out." Leiweke and AEG Chair Phil Anschutz, whose company owns 50% of the Dynamo, were joined at the game by club investor Oscar De La Hoya and West Virginia AD and former Dynamo President Oliver Luck. Luck said that the stadium “lived up to his expectations.” Luck: "The bottom line is that we got it done and did it in a responsible manner for everyone, including the taxpayers." Dynamo President Chris Canetti said that the opener “was a signature moment for a team and a sport he thinks will continue to grow.” He added, "This stadium provides more than stability. It provides an incredible future for growth” (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 5/13). Canetti also said his favorite part of the new stadium is the “central location” in Houston. Canetti: "Being downtown is clearly the best feature to it. But besides that, there's not a bad seat in the house.” Canetti said of the pillars honoring the past players of the Dynamo, “When we built the stadium we really had a very, very strong intention of not just having a beautiful stadium, but having a beautiful (stadium) that told the Dynamo story. We really want to build a tradition and a history here” (“NBC Sports Talk,” NBC Sports Network, 5/11).

TEMPLATE FOR THE FUTURE: NBC Sports Network's Arlo White said of BBVA Compass Stadium, "It is spectacular and the location of the stadium is vital, too. This is the template for the future of MLS perhaps. We are right downtown. We’re by Minute Maid Park, the Toyota Center. This is an awesome day for Major League Soccer." NBC Sports Network's Kyle Martino said, "They nailed the most important aspect of a soccer-specific stadium: Make it intimate." Martino: "This stadium was designed with the fans and the players in mind. We all know how hot it gets in Houston, so it starts with the outer shell, tricked-out with this cool steel mesh to allow air to flow thru (and) cool things down for the fans" ("DC United-Dynamo," NBC Sports Network, 5/12). MLS Commissioner Don Garber said that BBVA Compass Stadium “would be a gold standard” for future venues. It mixes “cutting-edge technology -- it has more than 150 Wi-Fi access points -- with one of the league's loudest atmospheres, because of the drum-shaped roof designed to deflect sound down to the field” (AP, 5/12).

CULTURAL STATEMENT: In Houston, Jerome Solomon wrote BBVA Compass Stadium “could be a game-changer, a community changer, like no other.” Certainly its launch “was different from other major venue openings.” The sellout crowd, which was “more than the Astros have drawn in half their home contests this season at Minute Maid Park, shook the $95 million structure in approval.” BBVA Compass Stadium “seems like a perfect home,” as the stadium is “so cozy that there is little reason to glance at the video screen above the north end zone.” With fans seated “so close to the action, the players can feel the noise.” Luck said, “It’s a tribute to the vision that a lot of people had, both at the city and the county level for this kind of building in this location, which to me is the most important thing of all.” He added, “I think it is as much a physical location as it is a cultural statement: 'Soccer has arrived. Hey, Houston, let’s wrap our arms around it and embrace it'" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 5/13).

SHARING IT WITH THE FANS: In Houston, Jose de Jesus Ortiz noted Dynamo MF Brad Davis after the game “sprinted over to celebrate with fans in the supporters’ section.” Davis said, “I feel like they deserve it as much as we do to be a part of that moment. They've been waiting a long time. They've been supporting us since our first day here.” He added, "This is a special day, not just for us players, but for our organization, for our fans and for the city of Houston. I wanted to go over and let them be a part of that moment with the team. I think they deserved it as well" (CHRON.com, 5/12).

ONE FOR THE BOOKS: SI.com’s Avi Creditor wrote years from now, when looking back at the history and timeline of MLS, “there will be a handful of days that stick out as monumental ones in the league's history, and Saturday will be one of them.” Between the opening of the “picturesque new stadium in Houston, a Canadian-record crowd of more than 60,000 on hand in Montreal to see the expansion Impact take on the star-studded, yet slumping Los Angeles Galaxy and another capacity crowd of more than 39,000 in Seattle for the key Western Conference clash between the Sounders and Real Salt Lake, few regular-season days in MLS history can carry the amount of anticipation, excitement, significance and fanfare than May 12, 2012, did.” BBVA Compass Stadium is the “latest gem an MLS franchise can call its own, and it is yet another symbol of the league's viability when plenty doubted that there would even be a 17th MLS season years ago” (SI.com, 5/13). In DC, Steven Goff wrote in a “cruel twist, a team craving a new stadium for a decade is the first guest in the newest MLS fortress.” Garber Friday said of DC United’s need for a new stadium, “I remain hopeful something can get done. It’s just so frustrating we haven’t been able to do in that market what we’ve been able to do in so many cities.” Goff wrote there are now “two teams stuck in inadequate venues: United and the New England Revolution.” The Revolution play at Gillette Stadium, which is “27 miles from the cosmopolitan demographic that cares most about MLS.” Garber said of DC United playing at RFK Stadium, “That team is losing a great deal of money. It’s an untenable situation that has got to change” (WASHINGTON POST, 5/11).
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