Photo by Wilf Thorne/Houston Dynamo
By FRANCO PANIZO
The stage is set and eyes around the league will be fixated on southeast Texas this weekend, where the latest gem in MLS will be on display for all to see.
BBVA Compass Stadium, the latest soccer-specific stadium built in the United States, will open its doors on Saturday to put an end to the Houston Dynamo's extensive search for a place to call their own. Having played home games mostly at multi-purpose facility Robertson Stadium since their inception in 2006, the Dynamo now have a sparkling new 22,000-seat stadium that is much more attractive to fans and players alike.
Smack dab on the eastern side of downtown Houston, BBVA Compass Stadium offers a better location and more intimate soccer experience than Robertson Stadium. Fans are closer to the action, and the orange seats that make up the $95 million stadium add to the Dynamo's luster, not to mention the downtown Houston skyline that is visible from parts of the stadium.
"This is my fifth season and now that we have our own stadium, it's like, 'Wow, we're an official franchise,'" said Dynamo centerback Geoff Cameron. "The stadium is state-of-the-art, it's downtown Houston, it looks over the entire skyline."
May 12 has been a date that anyone involved with the Dynamo organization has had circled on the calendar for some time now, but the buzz surrounding the stadium's opener has been growing steadily as the date has neared.
Even the Dynamo players, who have been forced to spend the first two months on the road as the finishing touches were put on BBVA Compass Stadium, have taken notice of the excitement.
"You have sold out for the first three games or something like that, and almost 12,000 season ticket holders," said Cameron, who recently described playing in the stadium as playing inside an oven because of the lack of wind coupled with the Houston heat. "That's pretty good coming from 5,000 or 6,000 at Robertson Stadium. It just shows you how hot of a ticket Dynamo games are."
Photo by Scott DeWoody
The increase in attendance should come as no surprise. Aside from the novelty that comes with a new facility, BBVA Compass Stadium is sitting in a great location for sports. It is within walking distance of the homes of the city's professional baseball and basketball teams, a big difference from Robertson Stadium, which is further away from the city center and located at the University of Houston.
The more enclosed setup of the stadium is also a key difference from what Robertson Stadium provided, and that should give the Dynamo the type of home-field advantage that teams like Sporting Kansas City and the Portland Timbers have been enjoying the past two years.
“Robertson (Stadium) was so big that the sound just carried out of the stadium,” said Houston goalkeeper Tally Hall. “With the new stadium, it’s closed in, and the seats are steep, so it should create a great atmosphere."
BBVA Compass Stadium should be jam-packed and rocking when the Dynamo kick off against D.C. United on Saturday, even with there being a chance of rain during the game. That's because the match will signal the official end of Houston playing inside of a facility meant for football and other sports, and the beginning of playing inside of their own home after years of patiently waiting.
“It took a little bit longer than anticipated but we’re happy it’s finally materializing,” said long-time Dynamo forward Brian Ching. "The Houston community has embraced us tremendously, in part because of our success and based on what guys have done in the community. It’s pretty special to see the stadium being built and the amount of excitement that the city is showing for our team.”
Photo by Wilf Thorne/Houston Dynamo