HOUSTON – The welcome mat is almost out at BBVA Compass Stadium.
With a number of elected officials and dignitaries in attendance, the Houston Dynamo on Tuesday officially cut the ribbon at their new home, celebrating the completion – or near completion, since there are still minor details to take care of – of a project that took 14 months to build but nearly seven years to complete.
“It was a phenomenal effort on behalf of everybody,” Harris County-Houston Sports Authority president Kenny Friedman said of the process to construct the 22,000-capacity downtown venue. “Everyone who came together to get this thing done quickly, on time and under budget it’s a phenomenal addition to the Houston landscape.
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“I think it’s the most beautiful [soccer] stadium I’ve seen in the country. It’s intimate, it’s fan friendly and … I think it’ll be a home field advantage for the Dynamo.”
According to Houston Mayor Annise Parker, the stadium plays a dual role being a draw for major events and publicity to the city while also creating an economic boon for the City of Houston and Harris County.
“Long term, this is a job creator for the community,” Parker said, adding that the stadium could create more than 1,000 jobs. “This area will continue to pick up life and it’s going to be an economic driver. It’s a gift to Houston and soccer fans, and it’s something that’s a win-win.”
Parker was a driving force behind the stadium and was just one of many elected officials on hand Tuesday to show their support. It’s something Dynamo president Chris Canetti feels is very rare.
“I’ve been in the league a long time and in other markets and what we have here is special,” Canetti said of the public support. “You don’t have this kind of support across the board like we’re getting here in Houston.”
According to Canetti and BBVA Compass Stadium general manager Doug Hall, the stadium is at a point where the Dynamo could take advantage of that home-field advantage this weekend. With the lines on the field and banners and advertisements on the stadium walls, that’s not hard to believe.
Still, with the ribbon-cutting complete, the next two weeks will be action-packed at the stadium. The club is opening the team store on Thursday and will host a training session in the new digs for season-ticket holders on Saturday.
That will work will lead into next week when the first game is played on the bright green sod – a match between the Dynamo Academy and the US Under-17 national team on May 10 – before things kick off on an MLS front when the Dynamo host D.C. United on May 12.
“It’s a very emotional day because it’s such a big accomplishment and big event it’s hard to grasp the reality of it,” Canetti said. “It’s hard to realize that we’re done here. We’ve accomplished something really big and I’m ready for May 12. Let’s get the fans in here, the players in here and get things going.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.