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Volume 20 No. 42
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Dynamo execs find ideas for stadium on quick trip to Europe

Don Muret
Houston Dynamo officials took a whirlwind trip through Europe and brought home some fresh ideas for their new stadium project after visiting two German soccer venues.

Chris Canetti, the Dynamo’s president of business operations, and Paul Byrne, the team’s senior director of operations, joined Liz Cox, a senior associate with Icon Venue Group, project manager for the club’s new facility, and project architect Bruce Beahm of Populous on a quick, four-day trip covering five countries. The group accepted the invitation of SedaSport, a Slovakian seating manufacturer competing for the Dynamo’s business, to come visit their factory in Myjava.

The trip abroad also gave the Dynamo execs the opportunity to attend games at Veltins Arena, a 61,673-seat stadium that opened in 2001, and Schauinsland-Reisen Arena, which has about 23,000 seats and made its debut four years later. Both buildings have SedaSport seats installed.

On May 7, they joined a near-capacity crowd of 60,302 at Veltins and watched FC Schalke 04, a member of Bundesliga, Germany’s top league. The next day they went to see MSV Duisberg, a second-division team, play at Schauinsland-Reisen.

“It was a crazy adventure,” Canetti said. “In both cities, we were blown away by the supporter sections in the end zones. They also had sections for visiting supporters but within a secured environment so there are no clashes between those groups. Any time you see a match abroad, you can’t help but be captivated by the pageantry and passion of the fans. They are there for the match and nothing else.”

At both stadiums, Canetti and company took note of the way the brands of the teams and their founding partners were presented on the walls of the inner bowl, a clean look with white logos against a backdrop containing the dominant color of the home club. For Canetti, the look reminded him of watching a match at the U.S. Open tennis tournament with sponsors’ marks standing out against the facility’s blue walls. No decision has been made, but the Dynamo can see doing something similar with the white logos of their founding partners “popping off” against a solid orange background, Canetti said.

“It’s clear who their stadium partners are,” he said. “They didn’t overdo it in the bowl.”

The smaller German stadium’s size and layout came closest to matching the MLS experience, Canetti said. A 2,000-capacity club runs the length of one sideline and was packed after the game, the crowd mingling and watching players being interviewed in the middle of the lounge. The Dynamo’s stadium will have a similar layout with interaction between fans and players, he said.

The Houston Dynamo plans luxury suites close to the field at its new stadium.
In Houston, the 10 outdoor seats tied to each of the 34 suites along the sidelines will be nine to 10 rows from the pitch, closest to the field in MLS, according to Canetti. In addition, the Dynamo plans to set up temporary field-level seats similar to the 150 directors chairs the team now uses at Robertson Stadium, a college football facility. Those seats cost $1,500 a seat per season. The number of those seats in the new stadium may be reduced because the first row of regular seats is so close to the pitch, Canetti said.

The Dynamo plans to determine prices and start selling suites and club seats for its new home in about 30 days, he said.
To date, two founding partners are signed: Dr Pepper Snapple Group, a deal the team announced last week, and Greenstar Recycling, the Dynamo’s current jersey sponsor. The club expects to sell eight to nine more founding partner deals in the health care, insurance, automotive, airline, banking and energy categories.

The Dynamo has had a “handful of positive conversations” with candidates interested in naming rights for the new stadium but no deal has been reached, Canetti said.

AEG Global Partnerships and the Dynamo’s in-house marketing staff are handling all those deals.

The stadium broke ground in February and is expected to open midway through the 2012 MLS season.

SKETCHY SUBJECT: As Minnesota Vikings officials continue their epic journey to build a new stadium in the Twin Cites, the search for an architect to design it is far down their checklist.

But for sports designers still feeling the pain of no new major league projects in the pipeline, the two sites in the mix have given them renewed hope — and more work drawing pretty pictures to catch the attention of citizens who oppose using public money to fund construction.

Aecom created a fresh stadium rendering for the reconstruction at the Metrodome site.
Aecom, on behalf of the city of Minneapolis, whipped up some fresh art for the reconstruction of the Metrodome site. It’s the latest image that the firm formerly known as Ellerbe Becket has created over the years for the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, the Vikings’ landlord.

Populous, meanwhile, in conjunction with Icon Venue Group’s Tim Romani, an owner’s representative, has spent the past year consulting for the Vikings, evaluating several sites initially under consideration for a new stadium. Two weeks ago, Populous produced new images after Vikings owner Zygi Wilf announced he had struck a deal with Ramsey County officials to build a stadium tied to a 170-acre mixed-use development district on a site in the suburb of Arden Hills.

One day earlier, the sports commission unveiled its latest Metrodome makeover plan with Aecom’s image, a project that would extend to a major renovation of Target Center, home of the Timberwolves and Lynx.

As it stands now, no decisions have been made for who would design and build the Vikings’ new stadium, said Lester Bagley, the team’s vice president of public affairs and stadium development.

With polls showing more than 60 percent of Minnesotans opposing the use of tax dollars to fund stadium construction, both billion-dollar plans still face big challenges.

Don Muret can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @BreakGround.