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There is little doubt that it was time for the Houston Dynamo and soccer fans in the Houston area to get their own soccer-specific stadium. The former home of Robertson Stadium (which has since been demolished in 2013) left the feeling that MLS soccer in Houston was temporary and not embraced. Though there were many great moments in Robertson Stadium including championship runs, there may have been no sweeter day for soccer fans in Houston than the first official home game at their new soccer-specific stadium on May 12, 2012; a game which featured a 1-0 victory over DC United in front of a sold out crowd of 22,039. An MLS matchup with the Dynamo at BBVA Compass Stadium is an experience U.S. soccer fans across the nation should add to their bucket list.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
The concessions options at BBVA Compass Stadium will not only be some of the greatest variety you've experienced at a sports venue but amazing quality as well. For a stadium of this size, there's quite a few different stands to choose from throughout the concourse. Your options include Texas Fare / Far Post Grill (staple stadium favorites), Papa Johns, Taqueria Los Anaranjados (tacos and Mexican street food), and Bayou City BBQ. In addition to those, you'll find various mobile stands like Fresh Market Salads, beverage carts and a Chill (frozen lemonade) cart.
My first recommended item will be one of the most unique and tasty items you'll have from a concessions stand anywhere: the Korean tacos. You can grab these at the Taqueria Los Anaranjados stand. You'll get two delicious tacos that are made with marinated beef in a heavy Asian-spiced sauce, topped with a slaw and cucumbers, and served in a double-layered corn tortilla. From the same stand you can also get Elote Con Queso. To non-Spanish speakers this may seem like a pretty complex name but it translates simply as corn with cheese. This item is a delicious roasted ear of corn and with a cream cheese-styled topping that's hit with some Mexican spice. One final recommendation is to stop by the Texas Fare stand for the Texas Cheesesteak. You'll get a Texas-styled cheesesteak which adds in poblano peppers and a jalapeno-infused cheese on a foot-long hot dog bun.
You can't go wrong with the variety of drink options either. You'll have the usual beer options for both domestics and imports. Catching on the craft beer craze, BBVA has a craft beer cart which includes brews like Saint Arnold Amber Ale, Karbach Hopadillo and Weisse Verssa. A Dynamo Rita cart which offers up margaritas and wine is another option available to you throughout the various stands. Soda options are unique as well, with the old classic RC Cola headlining the menu. Other options include 7-Up, Dr. Pepper, Sunkist and Big Red.
The one negative is the price you'll have to pay for the great quality and variety. Beer options range from $9-$10, sodas $5-$6, hot dogs start from $6.50, taco options begin at $10, and pizza at $8.25. Though the prices are certainly high, many major sports facilities have similar prices at a much less quality or variety. At least at BBVA Compass Stadium, you'll get good variety and quality.
Not only does BBVA Compass Stadium provide a permanent home for soccer in Houston, but it's simply an aesthetically sharp looking stadium. The design allows for the Dynamo orange color to be featured around the bottom of the stadium and topped with a metal mesh structure which celebrates the industrial heritage of the East End area. The skyline is visible above the stadium from the west side looking east. The total cost of construction for BBVA Dynamo Stadium rings up at approximately $95 million making it one of the most cost efficient stadiums in America. The stadium is also a leader in energy and environmental design having received certification of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Silver from the United States Green Building Council.
The seating area is a square bowl style with seats wrapping around the entire playing surface. The west, east, and south sides are provided partial shade by an overhead covering. Though an optional feature in other communities, the shade is a requirement for fans to seek shelter from the overwhelming southeast Texas heat. Two tiers of seating wrap around the entire seating area with the smaller strip on the bottom and the majority of seats above. Between the two tiers of seats are 34 private suites and 1,100 club seats on the east and west sides. The playing surface is natural Tifway 419 Bermuda grass and is kept in exceptional shape. The main video scoreboard is located in the center of the north side above the seating area and measures 25 foot by 40 foot with LED high definition. There are also two smaller screens on each side of the south endline.
Located on the south side east of the goal are two very passionate fan clubs: El Batallon and Texian Army. Their involvement in the overall atmosphere simply can't be measured and it wouldn't be the same high quality experience without them. You can't go wrong with the Dynamo Girls either. The official dance team of the Houston Dynamo is a feature during the pregame festivities and at half-time. While at the game, you won't miss Dynamo Diesel, the official team mascot. He's constantly roaming around the stadium interacting with fans and posing for photo ops.
There's a ton of banners and pride on display within the stadium. Hanging from the rafters of the south side overhang are banners recognizing the 2006 and 2007 Western Conference championships, the 2011 and 2012 Eastern Conference championships, and of course the 2006 and 2007 MLS Cup championships. As you walk through the concourse, you'll see great wall art memorializing important moments in Dynamo history. My favorite memorial is the honoring of season ticket holders with a listing of each name on a large plaque in the concourse. In the stands you'll find a great variety of banners and flags made by fans and which are either hung on display or being waved feverishly in the stands.
BBVA Compass Stadium is located on the East End of downtown Houston. One of the benefits of a downtown stadium is location around accessible amenities. There's enough bars and restaurants within walking distance to keep you satisfied. Two very popular bars are located just across the stadium: Lucky's Pub and Little Woodrows - Eado. Both venues are overrun with Dynamo fans before and after a match. There's a couple of restaurants in the immediate area as well, but your best bet is to venture out a little further than the immediate area for some of the best meal options Houston has to offer.
While in the Houston area, be sure to stop in to one of the best kept secrets in the area: Alladin's Mediterranean Cuisine. This is hands-down some of the best Mediterranean style food you'll eat and you have to try the lamb shank served over cashew rice. Get a taste of Tex-Mex at a Houston favorite, Ninfa's on Navigation; you can't go wrong with their fajitas. Don't miss out on the tasty area Vietnamese cuisine. Stop into Les Givral's Sandwich and Café on Milam and ask for the BBQ pork sandwich, it's absolutely amazing. If you're from outside of Texas and you miss out on a chance for Texas-styled BBQ, you've made a sizeable mistake. Just a short ride on Hwy 59 will get you to Goode's BBQ Company. Any BBQ meat option will be a smart choice and make sure you try the Austin Baked Beans.
Depending on when you're in town, be on the look-out for a brew tour at Saint Arnolds Brewery. For just a few bucks you'll get a souvenir glass, beer tasting tokens, and a tour of the oldest craft brew in Texas. Houston is known for its colorful art car parade and you can get a taste of what the parade is like at the Art Car Museum. If you're in town with the family, Discovery Green is a great downtown park with a splash-pad and green space. For the art lovers or a change of pace from the sports scene, check out the Menil Collection, an excellent free art museum (donations appreciated). The best hotel for a Dynamo game is the Hilton Americas located within walking distance of the stadium. It's also conveniently located next to Discovery Green and, depending on your room location, you'll get a nice view of the downtown skyline.
There's little doubt that the Houston area has a great deal of potential for one of the strongest fanbases in the MLS. With a new stadium, the sky is the limit for how large the fanbase can grow. On your way into the stadium, you'll notice a nice sized tailgating crowd with beef on the grill and Texas craft brews in hand. As you make your way inside, orange-cladded fans dominate your view from concourse to seating areas. Soccer is known worldwide for boisterous fan clubs and the Dynamo follow suit with El Batallon and the Texian Army. These passionate fan groups are located in the southeast corner of the stadium, but I don't really have to tell you that because it will become obvious as soon as you arrive to your seating section. Both clubs sport banners and flags throughout the area and stand, sing, chant, and yell during the entire 90 minutes of play (including several minutes before and after the game). This makes for a great fan atmosphere.
Though there are many benefits of being located in the downtown Houston area, there are certainly drawbacks and chief among those is traffic. The greater Houston area is notorious for some of the worst traffic in the U.S. If you are heading in for a weekday game, buckle your seat-belt extra tight and put in a mouth guard so you don't chip your teeth while grinding your way through bumper-to-bumper traffic. If you're in town for a weekend game, however, this likely won't be a problem. The stadium is located just off Hwy 59, which makes it pretty accessible to a major roadway. Plenty of parking is available around the stadium, but at a cost. You'll notice prices ranging from $20 right next to the stadium to $5 on the outskirts. Regardless of where you park, expect to pay at least $5. The exception to that rule is on Sunday, when side-street parking is free in the downtown area. Though it's a bit of a hike, the frugal folks like me can find side-street parking on the northeast side of Minute Maid Park.
As you make your way to the northeast side of the stadium for the ticket booth, expect to hit a bit of a line for will call or to purchase tickets. However, the line is managed well and moves pretty swiftly. There are several entrance gates around the stadium which makes getting inside less of a hassle. Once inside, you'll be welcomed to a very spacious concourse that runs along the outer rim of the seating areas. Seating sections are clearly marked above each entrance point and there's even several maps posted around the concourse to help guide your path. The seating aisles provide for enough room to move around. Concessions are very accessible in the concourse with many different options and quickly moving lines. The items sold at BBVA Compass Stadium are made with the soccer fan in mind knowing that there are very few breaks in action and fans need to quickly return to their seats. The restrooms are spacious, brand new, and kept very clean.
Enjoying a Dynamo game won't be the most inexpensive sports activity you'll participate in, but at least you get a great experience for the money spent. The estimated average ticket price across the MLS is around $26. For the Dynamo, expect to shell out around $24 for the lowest priced ticket (endline) and at least $52 for center line seats. The Dynamo offer pretty good family packages which drive down the price including 2-pack and 4-pack deals. Plan to add in some cash ($5-$20) for parking as well as a sizeable cost for concessions. When you're dealing with a major professional team, you expect high costs. What's most important is whether the experience is worth the investment. There's no doubt catching a Dynamo game at BBVA Compass Stadium will be a great overall sports experience.
Every great live sports experience is highlighted by certain 'extra' features which are unique compared to other venues or make the overall experience memorable. For a Houston Dynamo game at BBVA Compass Stadium, be sure to consider the following during your stadium experience:
• The location of the stadium near downtown Houston is a big plus for the overall experience. There's just something special about catching a glimpse of the skyline from your seats and then pouring out of the stadium to have a local bartender pour you a brew in a nearby pub.
• The quality of the concession items is a big plus here. Though you'll shell out a good bit of cash (which is usual for major sports venues) at least you'll get something unique and very tasty like the Korean tacos.
• You'll really enjoy seeing the wall art around the concourse, especially the mural for season ticket holders which lists every name for the active season. It's great to see the Dynamo recognizing their loyal fans.
• In what will be a major benefit for fans in the near future, an extension of the downtown Metro Rail system is under construction and will allow fans quick and cheap access to the stadium while avoiding parking fees.
Since 2009, negotiations have been ongoing for a new home for Houston’s MLS franchise; the Dynamo. All the talk finally came to action though as ground broke in February 2011 and on May 12th of 2012 the Dynamo played their first home game at what is now BBVA Compass Stadium. The 22,000 capacity stadium is a huge upgrade from the Dynamo’s prior home of Robertson Stadium on the campus of the University of Houston. BBVA Compass Stadium is exactly what the 2006 and 2007 MLS Cup champions needed.
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