Thursday, November 13, 2008

Letter to Harris County Commissioners

Via U.S. Mail and email to

The Hon. Ed Emmett
Harris County Judge
1001 Preston, Suite 911
Houston, TX 77002

To the Honorable Judge Emmett,

I write today to give my support for a soccer-specific stadium in Downtown Houston. More than that, I write to give my support for the Houston Dynamo.

I did not grow up with the beautiful game. I came to it in college as an announcer for the Fighting Kangaroos of Austin College in Sherman, Texas. Traveling in Europe in the summer of 2000, I was unexpectedly thrust into the beating heart of the Euro Cup. In a city square in Copenhagen I watched with 10,000 Danes as their national team was eliminated, having failed to score a single goal in the competition. I escaped the mayhem in Brussels on a summer night set alight after England beat Germany. I saw both the immeasurable joy of triumph and the extraordinary cruelty of defeat as I crossed the continent.

I continued to follow international football with at least enough interest that I was intrigued when the San Jose Earthquakes relocated to Houston. My first Dynamo game was their 2-0 victory over Pachuca in the first leg of the semifinals of the 2007 Champions Cup. On gazing over the sea of orange for the first time, I was instantly aware that the atmosphere was unlike any other in Houston. Here, in the songs of the Texian Army and the canciones of El Batallon I found that spark of the passion and enthusiasm I had seen throughout Europe.

I dutifully attended the home games this past season. I grew passionate about the team. I tailgated. I learned the songs. I brought friends, who then brought friends. I grieved with them the loss of Kyle Ritcheske, our friend and fellow fan whose life was cut tragically short this summer, and out of whose death the Ritcheske Dynamics was born. I stood with them in sorrow as our beloved Dynamo fell to New York last Sunday and their campaign to once again hoist the Anschutz Trophy came to a brutal and heartbreaking end.

More importantly, I watched as the Dynamo carried the colors, and the name of the City of Houston to far-away lands, from the defeat at the hands of the Purple Monster in Costa Rica to their historic point in front of a very hostile UNAM Pumas crowd in the Estadio Olympico in Mexico City. I watched as many of our young players, Corey Ashe, Ricardo Clarke, Patrick Ianni, and Stuart Holden, himself a Houstonian, took their games to the world stage with service on the U.S. Men’s National Team at various levels. I reveled as the team received yet another gift from San Jose in the form of Kei Kamara, the pride of Sierra Leone, the Lion of Houston.

There will be in this discussion many supporters and many detractors. This is a decision fraught with political peril. Stadium issues always are, and all the more so for a sport that still lags in popularity behind the other major U.S. sports. But there are those of us who believe this tide is turning. One need only look to the attendance at last Sunday’s game, played opposite the Texans, as proof that the Dynamo Nation is on the rise. Sadly, I am all too aware that even this rise will never convince the opponents of the stadium project who see only public money being thrown at a team they do not support, and a sport they do not understand. They have endured many years and billions of dollars in tax revenues used to build palaces for two iconic sports franchises, and one extraordinarily mediocre franchise that, God willing, will one day get its act together. I cannot say they are right to be reluctant, but I understand their apprehension.

This stadium presents a much different scenario. AEG has offered to front nearly all of the costs of construction, which are currently downward-trending as the cost of raw materials goes down. Oliver Luck said it best this morning when he noted that, in this economic climate, a lot of projects are being put on hold, but the Dynamo are ready and willing to make this investment. Needless to say, with the County’s participation, this project will provide an immediate source of employment for numerous trades otherwise left idle while other projects are put on the backburner.

The land has been purchased, and all that remains is the County’s agreement to participate in an East End TIRZ, which funds will primarily be used to offset the costs of upgrades to the public infrastructure serving the location. These upgrades will ultimately benefit the area and allow for further development on the city’s east side.

I implore you to keep an open mind about this project. This is an incredible opportunity to close the loop started downtown with the construction of Minute Maid Park and Toyota Center. One day, families will be able to picnic on Discovery green before walking over to catch a Dynamo match, a concert, a TSU football game, or any one of a number of youth-sports events that could be hosted at such a venue. The Houston Dynamo are, without question, the last bastion of affordable family entertainment in Houston sports.

In closing, I strongly urge you to vote to participate in TIRZ 15. The Dynamo have given us two championships and, hopefully, many more to come. Build a stadium for them. Build it for the fans, who pour their hearts, souls, guts and money into every game they can. Build it for every one of the 250,000 youth soccer players in the greater Houston area whose parents schlep them to and from practice and games, week-in and week-out, and who may one day aspire to set foot upon that field clad in orange.

If anything, build it for Kyle Ritcheske, so he can watch the games in heaven. I thank you for your consideration. Dale Dynamo!


Eric Carl Nordstrom


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