Behind the MLS Ambition Rankings: Houston Dynamo

How much money has your team spent in the past five years on youth development? How much in the past year?

We can’t disclose specific dollar amounts spent, but every year we continue to make incremental investments into the Academy program.

The Dynamo Academy has grown to 10 teams, ranging from U-9 up through U-23. This year, we added the Under-9 team, and have reached an agreement with an organization in College Station, Texas to establish a PDL team, which will provide our U-23 team a fantastic opportunity to compete.

Additionally, we have reached a groundbreaking partnership with two major clubs in the Greater Houston area, Rush and Space City Soccer, that will bring its 5,500 players into the Dynamo and Dash family. The boys’ teams will compete as Dynamo Soccer Club and the girls will compete as Dash Soccer Club. This partnership will create a fully-integrated pipeline for players, from the earliest recreational level to select and competitive teams, and for the truly elite players, up into the Dynamo and Dash Academy.

This partnership will bring added resources and befits to the Dynamo Academy, including a much larger player pool.

The partnership will also launch the Dash Academy this year. We’ll be one of three clubs in America with an MLS team, an NWSL team, a USL team, a boys’ academy and a girls’ academy all under one umbrella. (Portland and Orlando are the others).

Finally, we have invested heavily in our coaching staff at the Academy level, sending several of our coaches through the French Football Association training program that MLS has set up. We have made the strategic decision to assign our best coaches to the youngest teams in order to build an excellent base for those players.

How many homegrown players have you signed? How many have played in MLS league games for your first team?

To date, we have signed nine players to Homegrown Player deals from the Dynamo Academy. Tyler Deric has logged the most time with our first team, having played in 55 league matches so far. We also just announced the signing of Jose “Memo” Rodriguez to the first team. Memo joined the Academy at the U-16 level and is the first player in our club to progress from the Academy through our USL team, RGV FC, and up to the first team.

We have several more bright talents in the pipeline, including Christian Lucatero, who is with RGV FC now and, still just at age 19, has a very bright future ahead of him as he continues his maturation as a pro. Marcelo Palomino is another bright talent who is currently in residence with the U.S. U-17 national team in Bradenton and is a regular member of the U-16 national team.

How many season-ticket holders do you have? How many did you have in 2016?

We are not in a position to disclose specific numbers. Candidly, after three consecutive seasons of missing the playoffs, our season ticket numbers have declined a bit from 2016, but it is not a substantial amount, and we expect to rebound quickly as the team shows improvement on the field.

An encouraging sign, there has been a significant improvement in other areas of our ticket sales business, which indicates that there is a lot of excitement around the team in our market as we head into the season. With all of the new signings, we’ve seen significantly more interest in the local Hispanic community, particularly the large and very passionate Honduran and Colombian communities, as our team continues to directly reflect the diversity of our community.

Where does your first team train? Did you build the training facility yourself? If so, how much did it cost?

The Dynamo first team trains on the Methodist Champions Field at Houston Sports Park. HSP has been funded and developed by the City of Houston with the assistance of the Houston Parks Board. The Dynamo organization manages the facility on a day-to-day basis. The Dash also train at HSP, along with all of the Dynamo Academy teams. Currently the facility has five Bermuda grass fields and one Field Turf field, and there are plans for future development that would include additional fields and facilities, along with amenities like hike-and-bike trails, a playground, and more parking.

Did your team build its own stadium? If yes, how much money did the team spend on the stadium?

The construction of BBVA Compass Stadium was a private-public partnership financed by the Dynamo organization, along with the Houston/Harris County Sports Authority and opened its doors in May, 2012. Construction of the stadium cost an estimated $95 million.

Do you have a USL affiliate? How big is your budget this year for your USL team?

Without disclosing specific dollar amounts, we are continuing to invest in RGV FC. Year one was very positive (on and off the field) and the hybrid relationship we created is being looked at as a model by other clubs across the league.

RGV FC’s new state-of-the-art stadium, which seats nearly 10,000, is set to open next month and will be the class of USL. They’ve already built a strong fan base; and the presence of that team has had a very positive impact on the Dynamo brand recognition throughout the Rio Grande Valley.

The partnership is already paying dividends as we promoted Wilmer Cabrera from RGV FC after a very successful season. We’re also seeing results in terms of player development. Five of the players on our opening-day roster played with RGV FC last year. We also had several players on the first team who took advantage of opportunities to get minutes with RGV last year.

How much money have you spent in the three previous years on Designated Players (transfer fees and salary)? How much are you spending on Designated Players this year?

Again, without divulging specific contract details, we’ve tried to be strategic in our use of DP slots. Our plan is to target young, talented players who can develop in MLS and contribute to the club.

Players like Erick Torres, Mauro Manotas and Alberth Elis are good examples of this strategy at 24, 21 and 21 respectively. We’re very high on them and think each has the ability to be among the top players in the league as they develop.

How much TAM have you spent since its inception in the middle of 2015 (including this year)?

TAM has been a great asset to our club in terms of building the roster, and it has allowed us to be much more creative with player acquisitions. We have used TAM to acquire Romell Quioto, Juan David Cabezas and A.J. DeLaGarza this off-season. We expect these players to have a significant positive impact on our team this season.

How would you describe your investment in and use of data analytics? How many full-time analytics employees do you have?

Data analytics continue to take on a larger role within our team staff’s preparation, as well as within our business operations. We’ve had a full-time data analyst for two years, and this year we added a second full-time analyst to assist the coaches with film study, data analysis and preparation. Data also figures heavily into our players’ fitness and nutrition regimens, as everything from their physical workloads during training to their food intake and their sleep habits are tracked and analyzed in order for our fitness coach, Paul Caffrey, to create personalized training regimens for each player. This allows us to not only maximize a player’s physical ability, but also prevent injury by not pushing a player to over-exertion.

On the business side, we’ve invested in a new CRM system that will allow us to operate more efficiently in a number of areas such as sponsorships, ticket sales and marketing. We’re continuing to build a more accurate picture of who our fans are; when, where, why and how they purchase tickets; and how we can provide them with the best possible experience each time they interact with the Dynamo.

Who is your jersey sponsor? What’s your total income on sponsorships this season?

BHP Billiton is our current jersey sponsor, and they are in year-three of a potential five-year deal. We will not publicly disclose the dollar value but will say that our jersey sponsorship is in line with the league average.

We added 76 as a new sponsor to our training jerseys in 2017.

Our total sponsorship revenue for 2017 is already well-ahead of a year ago and is quickly nearing a club record.

We recently announced a groundbreaking partnership with Roc Nation, the global sports and entertainment marketing agency founded by hip-hop star Jay-Z, as the agency of record for the Dynamo. The partnership also creates the opportunity for Roc Nation to bring world-class events and concerts to BBVA Compass Stadium, which will further benefit our fans and our community.

Local TV deal: How many of your games this season are shown on local television? How much is your local TV deal worth per season? How big is your budget for presenting local TV broadcasts? Do your broadcasters travel on the road for local TV broadcasts?

This year, the Dynamo moved to a new TV home with KUBE Channel 57, a local, over-the-air independent station.

We will televise 25 of our 34 games on KUBE, along with another eight games on UniMás between local and national broadcasts. These games are fully distributed in the Houston, which has not been the case since 2012 as a result of various factors in the local TV market.

The primary benefit to moving to KUBE is that we are able to create a consistent TV location where fans know they can find the Dynamo game. In years past, we shared a station with the Rockets and Astros, and consequently dealt with games needing to bump to an alternate channel due to schedule conflicts. Consistency of channel and time (all of our home games are at 7:30 or 8:00, except for two 3 p.m. kicks) should help us drive better ratings, which results in more value for advertisers and partners, and greater visibility for the club.

At this time, we are still deciding whether or not to travel our broadcast team on the road.

How many front-office employees does your team have? How many have you added or subtracted in the past year?

Right now we have approximately 140 full-time team members.

Our organization continues to grow across the board in every area, year over year.

What other sorts of details should we know about your club that are a good barometer of the club’s ambition? 

We are investing more than $5 million into stadium improvements this year. The improvements will mainly come from new concessions areas and revised concessions concepts, new stadium LED boards and enhanced mobile connectivity for fans in the stadium.

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