Welcome to the WSOTP Stadium Guide, the latest major undertaking on here on Wrong Side of the Pond. With traveling supporters steadily becoming a fixture at MLS matches, there aren’t a lot of great resources for visiting fans to research ahead of their travels. Over the next few seasons, I aim to visit and provide an up close and personal look at each of the 19 (soon to be 20) MLS stadiums to help fill that void. I’ll also take opinion from the locals, as the Supporters who call each stadium home know it far better than I ever will. To see the full list of stadium reviews, click here.
|BBVA COMPASS STADIUM QUICK GUIDE|
|Address||2200 Texas St. Houston, TX|
|Home Club||Houston Dynamo|
|Opened||May 12, 2012|
|Soccer Specfic Stadium||Yes|
|GETTING TO THE STADIUM|
|From Out of Town?|
|MATCH DAY EXPERIENCE|
|Parking / Tailgating|
|Tickets / Where to Sit|
|Suites & Special Seating|
|Food & Beer|
|BEHIND THE SCENES|
|The Field of Play / WSOTP Pitch Pass|
|Meeting the Players|
The second stadium I visited in a whirlwind tour of Texas with my dad in early September, Houston’s BBVA Compass Stadium is an absolute gem. While we’ll get into the reasons for my opinion in detail below, I can easily summarize my admiration for the Dynamo’s digs in three words: location, seating and appearance.
Aesthetically, BBVA is absolutely stunning. Well, at least if you have taste for modern design. The entire stadium is wrapped in an aluminum and polycarbonate skin with a unique 3-dimensional pattern. This pattern is utilized throughout the stadium, and is often softened with accents of dark grain wood. And the omnipresent use of the clubs colors also further serves to underline the club motto of “Forever Orange”.
The one downside to this stadium visit? It was actually the first time on this stadium tour that where the home team lost, falling 1-4 to Eastern Conference pacesetters Red Bull New York. Sorry Dynamo fans. I promise I didn’t put a hex on the BBVA during my tour of stadium the morning before the match. Maybe I’m just not the good luck charm I thought I was. #SadFace
Before we get started with things, I did want to send out a very special thanks to my gracious host, the Dyanamo’s Digital Communications Coordinator, Ben Crook, for getting everything lined up during our time in Houston. UPDATE: I did get some feedback from the Texian Army, and will be adding in their perspectives in the coming days.
GETTING TO THE STADIUM
From Out of Town?
Located in the Southeast of Texas about an hour’s drive away from the Gulf of Mexico, Houston is the fourth largest city in the country and a global hub for manufacturing, aeronautical and energy industries. As such, getting to and around Houston is relatively easy. The George H.W. Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) services Houston, and is the 10th busiest on the continent. Though a the largest hub for United Airlines, the airport is serviced by most of the major domestic carriers and a strong contingent of foreign. Budget fliers might also want to check out flights into William P. Hobby Airport (HOU) for carriers such as Southwest, Jet Blue and American Eagle. If flying isn’t exactly your thing, train and bus access to the city is also available.
If your visit to BBVA Compass involves an overnight stay, you can rest your head at a seemingly endless number of hotels from 1-star to 5-star. If you’re wanting to stay close to the stadium, expect slightly steeper rates as the stadium is just on the outskirts of downtown. However, if you’re willing to drive a little bit, you can can find cheaper rooms by staying closer to the airport or in the suburbs.
Driving to the Stadium
Although not as prevalent in Houston as they were in Dallas, beware that the Houston metro area is home to 120 miles worth of tollways. Though some of them might be avoidable depending on where you’re driving from or the number of occupants in your vehicle. To get to BBVA Compass Stadium, you can Google your own directions or follow the ones below:
- From I-10 West traveling East or West: Follow I-10 to US-59 South. Take US-59 to the Downtown Destinations/Hamilton exit on the right, and continue straight on Hamilton. Turn left on Texas Avenue. BBVA Compass Stadium is on your right between Texas and Dowling.
- From I-45 North traveling South: From I-45, exit onto I-610 east. Continue on I-610 until you reach US-59 south, and eventually take the Jackson Street exit. Continue onto Jackson until turning left on Franklin, and then take your first right on St. Emanuel. Turn left onto Texas, and the stadium will be on your right between Hutchins and Dowling.
- From I-45 North traveling North: Take the Scott St. exit from I-45, keeping left at the first fork and following signs for St. Joseph Pkwy/Pease. At the second fork, keep right and follow signs for Pease. Soon you’ll need to turn right onto Dowling, then left onto Walker, another right onto St. Emanuel and a last right onto Texas Ave. BBVA Compass Stadium will be on your right between Hutchins and Downling.
From US-59 South traveling North: From US-59, take the Polk St. exit and continue on the access road which will turn into Chartres. Turn right on to Texas Ave, and the stadium will be on the right between Hutchins and Dowling.
- From US-59 North traveling South (from IAH): From US-59 South, take the Jackson Street exit and continue on to Jackson. Turn left on Franklin, and quickly take your first right onto St. Emanuel. Take one last left onto Texas, and the stadium will be on your right between Hutchins and Dowling.
- From TX-288 traveling North: From 288, exit US-59 north and take it until the Polk Street Exit. continue on the access road which will turn into Chartres. Turn right on to Texas Ave, and the stadium will be on the right between Hutchins and Dowling. SOURCE
Public Transportation Options
Houston’s METRO system features both light rail and bus transportation options for navigating the city, though the rail lines are rather new and don’t service as many areas as the city’s extensive bus network. However, what is exciting is that both the East End and Southeast lines — the two main lines of Houston’s METRO Light Rail — converge just on the north side of the stadium, and a dedicated stop for those lines is currently under construction. For further information on getting around the city using public transportation, check out the Harris County Metropolitain Transit Authorities METRO site, or plot out your trip using Google Trip Planner.
MATCH DAY EXPERIENCE
Parking and Tailgating
While there are a two main lots that are dedicated specifically for BBVA Compass Stadium — Lots B and C on the stadium’s north side — there’s also ample private parking lots in the area surrounding the stadium. This stadium map shows both. Lots B and C are “reserved parking”, but all that means is you need to secure the parking ticket in advance of match day for a fee of $20. However, as long as they don’t sell out ahead of time, you can pay the same price to park in those lots on match day without any prior reservations. Parking in the private lots ranged from $10-20 per car, with cheaper prices predictably requiring a longer walk. On-street parking seemed very limited, as most of the surrounding streets were off limits for that purpose.
As for tailgating, the stadium has designated Lots B and C as tailgate lots, though various private lots might allow it as well (Rule of Thumb: ask). Due to the limited parking in those lots, tailgate spacing is on a first-come-first serve basis. And predictably, the officially sanctioned tailgating has a number of rules. However, the most important of those rules is that if you want to use more than the one 8’x18′ parking spot a parking pass secures, additional parking passes must be purchased for each additional space you intend to use.
I managed to swing by the tailgate prior to the match and check things out, and it’s definitely a lively atmosphere. Quite a few separate supporters groups had their tailgates rocking, from the Texian Army to La Bateria. But the highlight for me was that the MLS Supporters’ Shield was making its nationwide tour stop in Houston that Sunday at the Dynamo tailgate. I had missed my opportunity to hoist the trophy awarded annually to the MLS side with the best regular season record when I made my stop in Columbus a few months back… so getting to do so in Texas was a special treat.
Pregame Pubs & Activities
Thanks to BBVA Compass Stadium’s downtown location, there are a number of options at the average fan’s disposal when it comes to pre-gaming at the pub prior to a match. Though none of those options is any closer than Lucky’s Pub — noted for having over 250 available beers — located just to the west of the stadium at the corner of St. Emanuel and Rusk Streets. The club also sets up a temporary “Dynamo Beer Garden” prior to each home match on Rusk Street as a part of the pre-game festivities called “Dynamo Ave”. If you’re looking for a spot to watch away games around town, or you just can’t make it down to the stadium, you have other options, too. At time of publication, there are currently 10 “Dynamo Pub Partners” around Houston that host watch parties for all away matches and have decent turnouts for home matches too. For further pub options, don’t forget to check out the WSOTP Soccer Pub Atlas below to see all of the soccer bars listed in town.
Notice a pub that’s missing? Submit it here.
Tickets / Where to Sit
I’m not the first to say this, and certainly won’t be the last, but BBVA Compass Stadium definitely has a very European feel to it. The the steep grade of the stands keeps seats closer to the field, ultimately leaving you feeling as if you’re sitting on top of the pitch. Tickets for Dynamo games (available through the club website) are a little bit pricier than most of the parks I’ve been to so far. But personally, I think the hike is justifiable as even the cheapest single game tickets — which are $24 along the upper end lines — provide far better views than even some more expensive options at other MLS stadiums. However, the highest price you can expect to pay for individual tickets is still relatively low: the lower center sideline seats are an affordable $52. See the stadium seating chart for the full break down. Will Call, along with walk up ticket sales, is located on the East side of the stadium.
A lot of fans have also given me feedback saying that you can snare tickets way below face value on sites like StubHub, so you might want to give that a try too if you’re on a budget.
Supporters’ Groups Seating
Thanks to their propensity to banging drums and the stadiums partial roof, it’s literally impossible to miss the Supporters Group section at BBVA Compass Stadium. Located in the southeast corner in sections 133-135 you’ll find all of the Dynamo SG’s: El Batallon, La Bateria and the aforementioned Texian Army. Due to its limited seating capacity, getting tickets for this section can be a tad tricky for non-members. But considering that a sizable chunk of the attendance joins in with many of their cheers coupled with the stadium’s design amplifying their noise, you won’t ever feel very far outside of it even if you can’t land a seat there.
Suites & Special Seating
When it comes to executive suites at BBVA, let me say this much: you’re REALLY close to the pitch compared to your average suite at an MLS Stadium. All 33 of the suites are just 10 rows off the pitch. Predictably, most are corporately-leased on a yearly basis, though some are available on a per game basis. Each suite can accommodate up to 16 guests, and provides VIP 2 parking spaces, catering services, a private host and access to the West Club throughout the match, as well as a number of other perks. Contact Abby Kaucher in the Ticket Office to inquire about availability.
If you have a need to entertain a larger crowd than a suite can accommodate, BBVA offers several additional options. On the North End goal line you’ll find the concourse level Budweiser Deck, a canopy covered space with standing room space for up to 100 guests and features full catering services. On the South End goal line, and doubling as the event stage, is the Heineken Terrace with standing room and seating options for up to 150 guests. Two party suites are also available in the southeast corner of the stadium, providing space for 14-50 people in an environment similar to the regular corporate suites.
One additional “luxury” offering is available too: President’s Club and Club seats are available in limited quantities for season-long leases on the West sideline of the stadium, either in the lower bowl behind the benches or in the upper bowl in front of the West Club. They provide similar amenities to the corporate suites, but are sold in single-seat quantities. Mentioned several times already, the stylish West Club gives VIP, Club and Suite ticket holders a climate controlled private bar and dining area to both schmooze and entertain.
Food & Beer
There are seven themed concession stand types spread around the stadium concourse, each offering a different type of food in addition to beverages and snacks.
- Far Post & East End Grill (Grill stand) located behind Sections 127 and 139
- Texas Fare (American) located behind sections 105, 110, 117 and 136
- Pizza on the Pitch located behind sections 107 and 138
- Taqueria Los Anaranjados (Mexican) located behind sections 135 and 115.
- Bayou City BBQ located behind sections 125 and 133.
- Extreme Dogs & Nachos (American) behind section 122.
- Beverage Express behind sections 105, 108, 125, 127 and 135.
If you’re feeling thirsty, you’ve got a decent selection to wet your whistle. Standard macros of both American and Mexican variety are to be expected at most of the concessions. However, a few of the Beverage Express stands offer craft offerings like mass-distributed Goose Islands, as well as locals such as locally brewed St. Arnold‘s Amber Ale and the WSOTP-endorsed Karbagh IPA.
Game Day Fan Activities
While tailgating can be arranged for, there are a number of other events to take part in prior to kickoff on match days. As mentioned above, the “Dynamo Ave” and Dynamo Beer Garden is set up a few hours before kickoff on the stadium’s Southwest side for the over-21 crowd. However, there are also a number of other family friendly activities set up adjacent to the Beer Garden in “Dynamo Ave”, including a stage with live music, activities such as face-painting and bounce houses for the kids. Other events may crop up from time to time too, so stay tuned to the Dynamo website for further information.
BEHIND THE SCENES
Seeing as how the Dynamo are land locked in downtown Houston, the team itself spends most of the week training at the Houston Sports Park (HSP) about ten miles down 288 from downtown. The practice facilities feature 5 Bermuda grass pitches and one synthetic pitch for use by the Dynamo first team and youth academy, but are also available for rent as well.
Much like many of the newer stadiums in MLS, the locker room facilities on-site at BBVA Compass Stadium are rather comfortable and plush. The Dynamo use the main locker room, while the visitors will use a stripped down locker room that can be divided into up to four smaller locker rooms.
The Field of Play
As has become the trend during my Stadium Guide visits, I was given the opportunity to go down and investigate the pitch at BBVA. Arriving in the morning before the punishing midday heat set in, I was able to walk the full length of the 115×70 yard Tifway 419 Bermuda grass field. The surface felt soft and foot despite regularly being subjected to the Houston sun, a credit to the grounds crew that keeps the pitch in tip-top playing condition. It’s odd, but when you stand on the pitch, the place doesn’t look very big at all. Thanks to the close proximity of the steep stands and the enclosing roof, you can easily imagine how the energy from the stands would transfer to the players on the pitch.
Meeting the Players
If you’re hoping to land an autograph or snap a picture with your favorite Dynamo player, doing so the day of the match can be a little tricky as there isn’t a designated meet and greet area post match. Your best bet would be to try to snag a players attention prior to or after a match, provided your tickets can get you access down next to the pitch. That said,the Dynamo do have scheduled appearances throughout the season where you’ll have a chance to meet players. Be sure to check the club’s appearance schedule for a chance to see players in and around Space City.
In every stadium that I visit, I try to uncover one “hidden” aspect of the stadium that most fans don’t know is there. As for BBVA’s hidden gem, I was tempted to give it to all of the local tie-ins — such as affiliated youth club jerseys hanging up, a wall dedicated to the club’s academy products, or even a spot where you can pose as if you’re holding up the MLS Cup with the last team Dynamo that won it in 2007 — scattered about the stadium concourse. But I’m actually going to give the title to something I’ve already made mention of several times: the absolutely excellent seating options at BBVA Compass Stadium. The view offered from even the “worst” seats in the house is spectacular, and for the money, can’t really be beat. The cheapest seat at many MLS Stadium’s is rarely bad, but Houston’s home offers the best I’ve seen so far. So if you’re planning a trip to watch your team in Houston on a shoestring budget, don’t let cheap seats be a deterrent, because at BBVA… there are no bad seats.
Thanks for reading my review of the Houston’s BBVA Compass Stadium! Have a suggestion or see an inaccuracy? Be sure to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.