Thursday, January 05, 2006

Plucky Ollie Luck, Stadium Builder, and Other Fables for the Upcoming Hectic Spring

A Houston Chronicle sportswriter was at it again this morning, filing the paper’s latest installment in its episodic hagiography of Oliver Luck, the former CEO of the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority turned president of the city’s new Major League Soccer franchise. This one, by the paper’s soccer writer, Glenn Davis, appeared under the headline “Team president faces a hectic spring” and as far as we could discern contained no new information (musta been a slow week in local soccer news, what with the big Necaxa vs. Cruz Azul game packing ’em in at Reliant Stadium ).

Davis did, however, manage to tout Luck’s alleged background as an overseer of new stadium construction, a credential that the paper’s sportswriters deem essential to Luck’s quest for a new “soccer-specific” venue in Houston. To wit: “Luck’s experience in getting taxpayer-funded stadiums built in Houston---Minute Maid Park, Reliant Stadium and Toyota Center---will come in handy in finding MLS a new home.”

Let’s recap with a handy timeline that Davis and other Chronicle sportswriters can print out for future reference: Luck was named to head the Sports Authority’s operations in December 2001. Enron Field, as Minute Maid Park was then known, opened for play in the spring of 2000. Ground was broken for Reliant Stadium at about the same time. Construction began on the Toyota Center in the summer of 2001. So, to spell it out: The ballpark was open for play and construction was well under way on the other two venues before Luck assumed his position at the public trough. Perhaps Luck’s courtiers at the Chronicle equate this valuable “stadium-building experience” with ribbon-cutting and getting your picture taken in a hard hat.

Done with the resume-padding, Davis goes on to re-emphasize Luck’s claim that the MLS franchise won’t be seeking “taxpayer money” for a new soccer stadium but is “in discussion” about partnering with “various school districts,” including HISD. So far, Luck’s friends at the Chronicle haven’t seen fit to provide details---or maybe they haven’t bothered to ask (“Not my job”)---but we probably should assume any such partnership would involve a lease-purchase arrangement with a school district and/or the use of its bonding authority to secure cheaper debt for the construction. Either way, that would be a use of “taxpayer money” (taxpayers being behind the school districts’ full faith and credit, etc), and, as we’ve noted here previously, it has absolutely nothing to do with the mission of a public school district, at least the way it’s defined by the state of Texas.

In the meantime, the local MLS entry will have to make do with Robertson Stadium, an arrangement that, as Davis reports, will force fans to endure the sorry spectacle of soccer on artificial turf.


The blinkered pimping on Luck’s has left us wondering again whether the daily newspaper is charging its own writers to use its archives, thus making it prohibitive for them to do the routine backgrounding. This had struck us earlier after reading the paper’s breathless report that a resident of our neck of the city was asking the Guardian Angels to come to town to fight crime (yeah, that’ll stop the murderin’ and indiscriminate firing of shotguns into crowds, as happened in one of those Katrina vs.The Locals set-tos last week at an apartment complex on the southeast side).

Damn, we thought, it seems like only yesterday that the newspaper(s) and TV stations were running one story after another on the Guardian Angels being in Houston, and we faintly recall seeing those red berets all about the Montrose area for a while. But the fact that the Angels had previously come---and gone---went unmentioned in the story, forcing the paper to do a follow-up noting that, yes, the group had a presence here back in the ’80s and '90s.

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