Stadium Dreams

Thursday, February 03, 2011 | View Comments

- Jason Davis

Houston is getting a stadium, for real and for true. This is big news, since we still don't have a league where everyone plays in their own building (those left standing on the wall without SSS dance partners are DC, New England, and San Jose). A tax zone vote of some type, the last hurdle before the Dynamo could break ground on the project, passed this week. The club that relocated from San Jose six years ago will finally set their permanent roots, meaning that longevity in the community is relatively assured. That's a great thing for MLS and soccer in Houston.

It's telling that stadium news like this is no longer the lead story in American soccer circles. Sure, we have Charlie Davies news and Nicolas Anelka rumors to distract us, but something feels different about the way we're processing the Dynamo's stadium developments. Admittedly, there is an "old news" feel to the story with the last of many hurdles now cleared, but the after the rash of openings we've had over the past few years, the excitement level has waned.

For those of us not bleeding orange, of course. Dynamo fans are probably bursting. Groundbreaking for the stadium happens on Saturday.

With only three teams left without proper stadiums (or firm plans in place, or acceptable gridiron/soccer hybrid situations), we can almost see the finish line on the golden era of American soccer stadium construction. That's what this is, you know. The Golden Era.

San Jose is creeping along towards something resembling progress, so I expect the Quakes will be the next team breaking ground. Quakes fans, like Dynamo fans are now, will be ecstatic. The rest of us will note the day the shovel goes into the ground - from there we might take an occasional peek at a construction cam if we come across a link then nod with approval when the place finally opens. If DC United ever get their situation resolved, or New England actually tries to find an appropriate site, we'll do the same for them. I'm not sure we should expect either to happen anytime soon, but anything is possible.

And then we'll be done, sorta. Every Major League Soccer  team playing a building that fits their needs or was built specifically for them. How impossible did that seem in 1996? Or even 2006? After the first ball is kicked in the last soccer stadium built, we'll be left with waiting on expansion teams, wondering about Chivas USA's plans to get out of the Galaxy's shadow or watching to see if Columbus decides Crew Stadium isn't good enough anymore. How about that for a thought - an MLS team going into a second purpose-built soccer stadium.

I know, I'm getting ahead of myself in a bunch of ways. The stragglers are few in number, but they still represent a significant percentage of the league playing in bad venues. Two of them are original franchises. One is owned by one of the league's original investors. It's not all good in the area of soccer specific stadium construction in the United States and Canada, it's just mostly good.

Congrats Dynamo fans. I look forward to your new building's contribution to the American stadium porn portfolio (currently maintained by a certain SF), a portfolio that doesn't appear to have too many more potential additions.

Not until 30 years from now when all of the MLS clubs in cozy, intimate soccer venues suddenly realize that demand is double their capacity and a we enter a new age of construction where 20,000-seat stadiums are replaced with 50,000-seat versions.

It's a beautiful dream, don't you think?

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