BBVA Compass Stadium, the new Dynamo stomping grounds, is set to open in 51 days. According to the website, it "will be a state-of-the-art, open-air stadium designed to host Dynamo matches as well as additional sporting and concert events. When it opens in 2012, the 22,000-seat stadium will be the first soccer-specific stadium in Major League Soccer located in a city's downtown district."
This is a prime opportunity to promote Houston as not only a sports mega-market, but as an exciting, unique food town, a town that loves to eat, loves to party and loves its sports teams.
As of this morning, City Council has approved an amendment to a law which effectively banned tailgating in Houston's central business area. The amendment will now allow an exception for public consumption at sporting events. Tailgating is a necessity for any sport, and it's great to see the city support the franchise.
Being able to get drunk before the game is a great start, but there are a few other things that the Dynamo (and the city) could do to solidify their fan base and offer a truly great soccer experience.
5- Credit Card Machines
This one should be a real softball for a stadium which bills itself as "state of the art," but patrons of Robertson Stadium know of what I speak. Robertson Stadium is an outdated and ill-equipped home field for a team that has such great hometown support. The concession stands don't have credit card machines, a disservice to the fans and, in this day and age a drain on both consumer and stadium.
As a franchise, they owe it to themselves and their supporters to upgrade. I use credit card machines as a symbol for improvements the team is making. Not only should they catch up to the times, they should also offer improved variety and quality of concessions, something seriously lacking in their old digs.
BBVA Compass Stadium is really going to boost their image as a major-market franchise. MLS is a legitimate professional sports league, and it's encouraging to see the team and city investing in soccer as a major sport.
4 - Local Beer! Craft Beer! Huzzah!
St. Arnold's has become a solid presence in Houston's sports community. They have stands at Texans and Astros games, and there are two mobile carts at opposite ends of Robertson. The owner of Saint Arnold's can regularly be found pounding the wall in the front row of The Bullpen, the loudest, rowdiest section one can sit in for Texans games.
Personally, I'm willing to shell out a few extra clams for good beer, especially local brews, but why not expand this model?
Miller Lite and Bud Light certainly have their place at sporting events, but I would argue so do more elevated libations, as well. Catering to a commodity market can only stand to boost the financial gains of the club, all while giving the fans something extra in the meantime.
Sure, it would be a bit more pricey to offer craft beers, but realize that the stadium already has you by the short hairs the second you walk in the door-- might as well enjoy yourself, right?
3- Culinary Visitor's Booth
The food at Robertson is generally a few notches above school cafeteria fare. I am including in this generalization the personal-size CiCi's pizzas you can get there. What if the new stadium had concession stands featuring a revolving menu of food reflecting regional cuisine of the visiting team?
Philadelphia is in town, so cheese steaks are on the menu. Or we are playing Toronto, and poutin is offered. The L.A, Galaxy menu could feature sandwiches with avocado and sprouts, California rolls and cookies baked into effigies of David Beckham and Posh Spice.
Not only would it break away from the somewhat pedestrian offerings of burgers, dogs and nachos most stadiums feature, this would be a great way to reach out to visiting fans and Houston-transplants from other cities. It's also another opportunity for the stadium to make money off of a commodity market, off people who expect a little more than the usual stadium food.
2 - Food Truck Tailgating
I think it's awesome that the City of Houston wants to do best by the Dynamo and work to allow tailgating.
They are missing a real opportunity for some political gain, though. By allowing local food trucks access -- if not a designated area, even -- to tailgaters, Mayor Parker and City Council could not only promote the Dynamo's interests, but they can garner some real political leverage through supporting small business and the local economy.
Fans and visitors alike would be treated to a rare and unique sporting experience. The Texans are already known nationally for their tailgating, but this could be a real Bayou City original.
Helping the immensely popular and loyal local food scene, throwing a kickass party and playing some great soccer-- the Dynamo would do well to associate themselves with such a fan-friendly mindset.
1 - Winning
The late Al Davis, former owner of the Raiders, made "Just win, baby," the mantra of his franchise. Schaub's last-second pick this past season certainly helped, but on the whole they haven't quite lived up to the saying.
Winning, more than concessions, alcohol or a shiny new stadium is what puts butts into the seats. It's what fills the cash boxes, keeps the credit card machines singing their merry tune and gets fans to shell out their hard-earned coin on burgers, fries, sodas, beers, hats, caps, scarves, shirts, jerseys and, most important to the franchise, more tickets.
It's easy to forget that, of all the Houston professional sports teams, the Dynamo are the only franchise not currently suffering a dry spell of championship seasons -- they won the MLS cup in 2006 and 2007, their first two years of existence, and came pretty close last year.
Winning is what affords the Dynamo continued enjoyment of an avid and loyal fan base. Opening up this new stadium shows their commitment to the city and their desire to give their fans a place to worship at the altar of sports.
Winning is what will keep us turning up at the turnstiles, but giving us fans some excellent beer and food won't hurt, either.
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