Seattle Sounders FC will make its first visit – and probably one of its last – to almost-70-year-old Robertson Stadium at 5:30 p.m. today.
Since moving from San Jose, Calif., and becoming the Dynamo, Houston’s MLS team has used the University of Houston football stadium as its home, while negotiating for a soccer-specific stadium of its own.
Now, that seems about to happen.
“The City of Houston has purchased about a 12-acre site,” Dynamo president and general manager Oliver Luck said Thursday in a phone interview. “Great location. In many respects similar to Seattle in the sense that it’s about three city blocks from Minute Maid Park, the Astros’ baseball stadium, which is downtown. The city has agreed to provide some (financial help), and we are in the process of working with the county.”
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Luck said the city already has done some work to prepare the site, while the club has an architect working on what will rise there. If ongoing negotiations with the county work out, the Dynamo hopes to begin play in its new home in 2012.
Until then, it will remain at Robertson Stadium, a few miles south of downtown.
“It’s pretty rowdy,” said Sounders forward Nate Jaqua, who played in Houston during the 2007-08 seasons before being selected by Seattle in the expansion draft. “It’s a good atmosphere. Some of the playoff games they pack that whole stadium and it’s a good atmosphere. Some of the games they have less people, but it’s usually pretty loud. I enjoyed playing there.”
This season, the Dynano is averaging 15,836 fans at the 32,000-seat stadium. And despite its lack of frills and narrow pitch, the club believes that’s a far better fit than 71,500-seat Reliant Stadium, the newer and far more luxurious home of the NFL’s Houston Texans.
However, Reliant is expected to be used next season when Houston hosts the MLS All-Star Game.
MLS has regularly used its All-Star games to showcase its new stadiums, but MLS decided that with Reliant available there was no reason to wait.
“We had always said to MLS over the years, ‘Hey don’t forget about us. It may take us a while to get a building built, but nonetheless we think the All-Star Game would be a fun event down here,’” Luck said. “Our intent is to have this game played at Reliant Stadium, which is a nice building with a retractable roofl. Given the hot July weather we have this will be a nice climate-controlled building we have for the All-Star Game.”
There’s no roof at Robertson Stadium, which was approved in 1941. So, hot and humid Houston summer weather may give the Sounders as much trouble as the home crowd today. But if it’s any consolation for Seattle, Luck said there’s only so much adjustment a body can make, even for a home team that practices there.
“You play 90 minutes in 90-degree weather and 95 percent humidity – that can take a lot out of you,” he said. “Houston’s muggy. There’s supposed to be a cool front coming in, but with a cool front it goes from 95 to 93.
“Our guys have gotten used to it to a certain degree. I really don’t know if it’s going to be much of a competitive advantage. I’ve seen us go up to Dallas and play a day game in the heat, and we wilt like anybody else.”
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808
Seattle at Houston, 5:30 p.m.
TV: Ch. 6/16. Radio: 97.3-FM.
Inside: Gameday preview, C10