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[Chron] Officials kick around plan to remake Wortham into soccer complex

Discussion in 'Other Sports' started by oomp, Feb 7, 2007.

  1. oomp

    oomp Contributing Member

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    http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/front/4532429.html

    Feb. 7, 2007, 1:43AM
    Officials kick around plan to remake Wortham into soccer complex

    By LORI RODRIGUEZ and MATT STILES
    Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle

    Shouts of "goal!" could replace "fore!" at the venerable Gus Wortham golf course under a plan to provide a permanent home for the Dynamo soccer team and keep it in Houston.

    City officials quietly have been looking into converting the old East End course into a soccer-oriented youth facility, which the Dynamo is requesting along with its own stadium as a condition for staying.

    Several suburban cities also are kicking around proposals to land the championship soccer team. That's putting pressure on Houston to make a move.

    The proposed sports complex, however, would mean the end of existing operations at Gus Wortham Park, which is in a heavily Hispanic community and is one of only four golf courses inside the Loop.

    So some community leaders and residents of surrounding neighborhoods want to nix the plan.

    Councilwoman Carol Alvarado, who represents the area, said the city should renovate the course, as the National Golf Foundation recommended in 2005, not abandon it.

    "Lately, we've prided ourselves so much on historical preservation," Alvarado said. "The golf course itself is a piece of the East End's history, and I don't want to see that destroyed."

    The Wortham course and the ones at Memorial and Hermann parks are owned by the city; the fourth inner-city course is the private River Oaks Country Club.

    Andy Icken, planning and development director with the city's Public Works and Engineering Department, said the city's goal is to present a package to the Dynamo within a month in hopes of keeping the team from moving to the suburbs.

    "We have been investigating a broad range of opportunities," said Icken, who has briefed Mayor Bill White on the effort. "We haven't really put pen to paper yet, as far as the economics and how we would pay for all this."

    Icken said plans for the 150-acre site could include a practice complex for the Dynamo as well as public soccer and baseball fields.

    A new downtown stadium could be linked to the site by a planned expansion of the Metropolitan Transit Authority's rapid transit system into the East End.

    "The Dynamo have told us from the beginning that part of their program is to involve youth in soccer-related, sports-related activity," he said.

    Dynamo President Oliver Luck said the team is having "in-depth conversations" with officials in Houston, Sugar Land, Webster and Pearland. The team wants to make a decision on the location of its new stadium by April or May.

    "But we're not at a point where we're near any decisions," Luck said.

    The Dynamo won the Major League Soccer championship last year in its first season in Houston after moving from San Jose, Calif., in 2005. It plays its home games at the University of Houston's Robertson Stadium, which seats 32,000.

    The Anschutz Entertainment Group, which owns the team, has a lease to continue playing at Robertson through 2008. Its average home attendance this past season was 18,935 per game.

    Team officials repeatedly have said the Dynamo must develop a stadium for the operation to be economically viable in the long-term through concessions, suites and other stadium-based revenue sources.

    Icken said it's too early to discuss how the city, perhaps in conjunction with the team, would finance a soccer stadium. Possible funding sources include city sales tax revenue, private donations and money from the team itself.

    "Where we are is, can the city come up with a package of options that compete well with those other places?" Icken said. "I can't answer that question yet."

    But he said the team's talks with Houston's suburban neighbors have added urgency to the planning.

    "I don't think we can procrastinate," he said.

    Paul Mabry, communications director for Harris County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia, said the commissioner is staying informed on the proposal but that the city is driving it. Gus Wortham Park is in the district Garcia represents.

    So far, the plan has not been debated at the grass roots. But longtime golfers at the East End facility Tuesday were less than thrilled.

    "I come here with my friends every day to golf. A lot of young people come out here to practice or for tournaments. Some community folks come to exercise, have a hamburger or just enjoy the fresh air," said Eddie Ante, a semi-retired, steamship company owner.

    "Howard Hughes used to golf here. It's in the inner city, it has a lot of history and it's utilized a lot. It should remain a golf course.

    "If the city is going to do anything to this place, it needs to invest a lot more money into modernizing it."

    Joe Turner, the city's parks and recreation director, stressed that the city would consult golfers and the surrounding residents before making any changes.

    Annual rounds at the course have declined more than 40 percent since 1998, according to parks department statistics, but have stabilized recently.


    GUS WORTHAM PARK

    City officials are considering a plan to replace Houston's oldest city-run golf course with a youth-sports complex, and the idea already is drawing some criticism. A recent study analyzed the course:
    • Opened: 1914

    • Strengths: Ideal, inner-Loop location, historical charm, strong design and layout

    • Weaknesses: Poor physical condition, play has fallen significantly since late 1990s, needs up to $6 million in renovations

    Source: National Golf Foundation study of city golf operations
     
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  2. Nick

    Nick Contributing Member

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    When I first read the title, I thought it was referring to the Wortham Center, not Wortham Park.

    That would be kinda weird to have soccer in an opera complex... but at least the acoustics would be awesome.
     
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  3. MadMax

    MadMax Contributing Member

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    The fact that Oliver Luck is involved gives me hope. He was chair of the Harris County Sports Authority previously, so he has that background. He's very well established here. And there seems to be lots of progress moving forward.

    I hope the Dynamo are here for a very, very long time.
     
  4. Kim

    Kim Contributing Member

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    Is it really worth it to preserve history when it's the history of the rich and privileged? Or am I wrong about that? I think that a soccer complex would be more used by the community, the children, the fans...rich or poor, while golf ultimately, just costs too much money with the equipment rentals and all. Does the value of serving the community more weigh more than the value to preserve a certain area of historical sentiment?
     
  5. updawg

    updawg Member

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    Isn't there somewhere else to make the stadium/complex? Seems like it would be a good idea to keep the golf course around and make the stadium somewhere else. Theres plenty of crappy areas that the complexcould be put to revitalize. Getting rid of a golf course is a big sacrifice
     
  6. halfbreed

    halfbreed Contributing Member

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    As I read it, the actual plan is to have the stadium in downtown (with the current opinion being that it will be in the Warehouse District) and have the soccer complex at the Gus Wortham site. They could, of course, just put both in the same place but with the first option you get the "downtown" stadium.

    The complex will mainly consist of a whole bunch of soccer fields.
     
  7. DrLudicrous

    DrLudicrous Contributing Member

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    I like that plan and hope it works out, I think it would be best for all parties.

    And I have no problem getting rid of the golf course for it. From my understanding it's hardly used, and is used even less by the people in that area. Why not build something that they would be used and would help the area grow?
     
  8. leroy

    leroy Contributing Member

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    Exactly. I sincerely hope that Webster, Pearland, and Sugarland are not seriously being considered. The stadium needs to be inside the loop...at the very least inside the beltway. Those sites would pretty much guarantee that I never see another game in person. I live in Austin and my parents are in The Woodlands. Those places are entirely too far to get to a game.
     
  9. texanskan

    texanskan Contributing Member

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    This would piss me off, that golf course has a historic value in addition to being one of the few courses inside loop 610. The Dynamo should look at all options and I agree inside the city is the best option but don't sacrafice a city park/golf course for that.
     
  10. DrLudicrous

    DrLudicrous Contributing Member

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    When was the last time you played there? And what exactly is it's historic value?
     
  11. Rocketman95

    Rocketman95 Hangout Boy

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    Yeah, I've played there once and it was pretty terrible.
     
  12. Buck Turgidson

    Buck Turgidson Mineshaft Enthusiast

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    Everyone agrees that the course needs to be upgraded.

    Hopefully they can find another acceptable innerloop site. Everybody wins.
     
  13. WhoMikeJames

    WhoMikeJames Contributing Member

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    Why the hell don't we play at Reliant.
     
  14. MadMax

    MadMax Contributing Member

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    way too big. we need a stadium with about 1/3 of the capacity of Reliant.
     
  15. oomp

    oomp Contributing Member

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    I was really excited about Delmar Stadium being rebuilt/upgraded for the Dynamo, but I guess that rumor/plan isn't on the table anymore.
     
  16. DrLudicrous

    DrLudicrous Contributing Member

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    From what I've heard it's still a possibility, just not the first choice anymore. Right now it seems like there are around 4 pieces of land being talked about being used for something (stadium, complex, or both).

    1. Downtown across 59 from Minute Maid Park
    2. Gus Wortham Park
    3. Delmar
    4. Houston Hills Golf Course

    The last one being pretty new. The team has also talked with Pearland, Sugar Land, and Webster about building the stadium in their towns.
     
  17. texanskan

    texanskan Contributing Member

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    It used to be Houston Country Club, I played there 2 months ago and it needs many upgrades but it has a very nice layout.
     
  18. texanskan

    texanskan Contributing Member

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    Sam Sneed and Ben Hogan played an 18 hole match play event there at one point. Just because it does not look good now does not mean it can't look good or never looked good.
     
  19. texanskan

    texanskan Contributing Member

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    Downtown is where it needs to be
     
  20. bottlerocket

    bottlerocket Member

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    It use to be Houston Country Club.

    The city should invest in the course. It could nicer or sell it.
     
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