HOUSTON — On Saturday, BBVA Compass Stadium will come to life as the Houston Dynamo host D.C. United in the first match at Houston's sparkling new soccer-specific stadium (4:30 pm ET, NBC Sports Network, LIVE CHAT on MLSsoccer.com).
But as everyone comes together in downtown Houston, there will be two men in attendance who will have wider smiles than most on their faces: former Dynamo president Oliver Luck (above left) and his successor Chris Canetti (above right), both of whom played an integral part in bringing a very complex and diverse deal together.
WATCH: BBVA Compass Stadium unveiled
“I’m very proud of what the team has accomplished,” Luck told MLSsoccer.com. “The challenge was to put together what I would call a politically palatable deal and we were able to put together a political deal that was responsible to the different constituents we had which was the soccer franchise, the taxpayers and the like.”
Luck was tabbed to usher the Dynamo to Houston in part for his ability to navigate these types of deals. The former Houston Oilers quarterback headed the formerly named Harris County Sports Authority for five years and understood what bringing a professional sports stadium to life would entail.
To concentrate on that, Luck found a partner in Canetti who could handle the day-to-day operations of the club while he worked to put together a deal that was facing immense political, economic and social pressure.
“Oliver’s a great guy and means a whole bunch to this team and deserves a lot of credit for everything that’s happened here, especially the stadium,” Canetti told MLSsoccer.com. “He was the big man on campus if you will when it comes to being able to focus on the stadium and training complex and had the faith in me to run the team and the business. It was a great partnership and was valuable for the club.”
Canetti picked up on Luck’s work when the former left the Dynamo two years ago to take the athletic director position at his alma mater, the West Virginia University.
Combined, the two Dynamo presidents laid the groundwork for a stadium deal telling the Dynamo’s story in the halls of the city and Harris County government, while the club was busy winning championships in their first two years. In the end that was a winning formula.
“It was guys like Brian [Ching], Dwayne [De Rosario] and Eddie [Robinson], those guys really captured the imagination of the city and helped us gain some traction as we put this plan into action,” Luck said. “They’re very responsible for the way the city and county first embraced the Dynamo.”
Six years after starting work on a deal that looked to be in dire straits as the city and county went through administration shifts and economic stress, the pair will be on hand Saturday to take in the fruits of their labor and get a deserved handshake or pat on the back from anyone with knowledge of the process.
“There was a lot of tenacity but results are what matter in life,” Luck said. “We, we being everyone including the soccer community, taxpayers, sports fans, we got the result that will make Houston a better sports town.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.