Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Sheer Balls

Does anyone in Houston favor building a new stadium for Major League Soccer, other than Oliver Luck, who has conveniently exited his post as chief officer of the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority to assume the presidency of the soon-to-arrive MLS franchise, and Chronicle columnist John P. Lopez, who apparently has taken on a side job as Luck’s publicist?

We’ve not seen or heard of any discernible public sentiment in that direction, but then we don’t hang in the same circles as Luck and Lopez (it's got a ring, don't it?).

Our rule of thumb on these matters, which we formulated long ago, is to wholly discount anything a sports columnist, writer or broadcaster has to say with regard to the construction of news sports venues, because invariably they reduce themselves to shills for the owners of the teams they cover (and cover from a very nice vantage point inaccessible to the average fan), in addition to exhibiting their woeful ignorance of the wide world outside of sports.

Let’s take Lopez. He relates today that Luck has a plan (details to come) for a new “soccer-specific” stadium “that would not be financed like every other sports mansion on the local landscape” in that “financing will not be another tax burden on citizens.”

Excuse me, but isn’t that the argument that was put forward on behalf of Minute Maid Park, the Toyota Center and Reliant Stadium---that none of these facilities would impose an additional burden on the payer of general taxes (sales and property), but rather the load would be saddled on out-of-towners who rent cars and stay in hotels and users of these venues (revenue that hasn't met projections, by the way, thus forcing the authority to take on almost $40 million more in debt last year to forestall its bonds being degraded to junk status). So maybe Luck's plan isn't so all-fire new and different ...

According to Lopez, this “public-private partnership” which he seems to know little about detail-wise (or isn’t willing to “share” with his readers, because maybe that’s not where his loyalties lie at the moment), could involve, as he coyly puts it, “say, HISD.”

No. Somebody needs to stand up and stop that. ASAP. We’re sure we’ll be told it’s been done in other cities and other school districts, etc., and we’re sure there will be no new “tax burden on citizens,” but that’s not what a school district is for. Period. It’s that effin’ simple. (We would unilaterally assign the task of derailing this plan to, say, Chronicle news columnist Ric Ocasek … excuse me, Rick Casey, but since it’s not something that happened in San Antonio 15 years ago he probably couldn’t work up much interest).

In a textbook case of government “empire building,” Oliver Luck and the Sports Authority have been angling for several years to bring an MLS franchise to Houston---a job that by no stretch of the imagination was part of the authority’s initial charge. The Sports Authority should have been shuttered long ago and its bill-paying functions housed in the back of some non-descript office building with a hand-lettered sign on the door. Didn’t County Judge Robert Eckels raise that possibility a while back? What happened with that?

Last year, in his role as the Sports Authority’s chief officer, Luck gave a speech in which he told an East End group that a revamped Robertson Stadium would be a suitable venue for an MLS franchise. There was no mention of a new stadium, according to the Chronicle story still posted on the authority’s Web site. Now that Luck has taken the revolving door to the former San Jose Earthquakes, Robertson Stadium apparently will be good only as temporary home for the MLS. A new stadium must be built. No doubt the owners of the Earthquakes figure Luck is the man to deliver one, and he's already shown them he knows how to handle the media (was he, by any chance, working out this financing plan of which Lopez writes while drawing some of his $200,00 annual paycheck from the Sports Authority?).

Our olfactories aren’t that sensitive anymore, but this has a very bad smell about it.*

*Our prediction: Somewhere along the line opposition to a new “soccer-specific” stadium will be characterized as anti-Hispanic. Watch!

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